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Do I Have to Pay Child Support With Shared or Joint Custody?

Important Update (2023): Starting June 1, 2023, there will be a significant alteration in the method of calculating child support for parents who share physical custody of their children in Alabama. Get the full details here. Joint custody refers to a child’s shared physical and/or legal custody after the parents separate or divorce. In such […]
joint custody child support alabama

Joint custody refers to a child’s shared physical and/or legal custody after the parents separate or divorce. In such cases, parents share the daily responsibilities of raising the child(ren), including financial obligations.

So, in short, the answer to this question is yes. Joint or shared custody doesn’t negate a child support obligation. Even if both parents share equal charges, one parent will usually still owe some child support. The only exception would be if both parents earn the same amount of money and spend the same amount of time with the kids. Child custody attorneys report that is an unlikely scenario.

When determining child support obligations, courts handle joint custody arrangements differently, and every state follows a different model for calculating support obligations. When choosing an agreement between parents, some parents maintain an oral agreement, which allows them to avoid paying child support when the child is not in a respective parent’s care. 

Additionally, some written agreements will specifically address when support is paid. However, many states do not allow the parent paying child support to stop spending when children are visiting or in their custody – that might be the case because of a child’s ongoing needs, such as extra-curricular activities, doctor’s payments, or housing arrangements. Those payments will still need to be paid even when the child is not with that parent.

Get Child Custody Help

Get advice from a qualified legal professional.

Factors Considered in Determining Or Altering Support Obligations in Joint Custody

States generally consider four critical factors when determining child support and who pays it. 

  • The income of each parent
  • The custody arrangement (e.g., which parent has physical custody of the child(ren))
  • The financial and healthcare needs of the child
  • The number of children

If there is a joint custody agreement, the main factor determining who will pay child support is who makes more money. The parent with the highest income will pay the other parent the difference between their child support payment and the child support payment the other parent would be making.

Each state must decide its method of calculating these child support payments and maintain guidelines for child support award amounts. They may create a  list or schedule that entails a basic support obligation amount or a percentage of income on which the child support is based. One of three calculating methods is used in each state:

Income Shares Model

According to Ala. R. Jud. Admin. R. 32, Alabama uses the income shares model. This model is based on what a child would receive if the parents were still together in a single household. It combines the income of both parents first.

Then, the state will find the child’s financial support needs. This figure will be a combination of a predetermined amount that the state says a child requires, the child’s healthcare costs, and the cost of child care. If there are multiple children, the amount is adjusted for each child, per state laws.

Once the total support obligation is calculated, the percentage of each parent’s contribution to the total income is found. Finally, that percentage is multiplied by the total child support obligation to arrive at each parent’s child support amount.

Percentage of Income Model

The percentage of income model determines the child support payment based only on the non-custodial parent’s income. The rate of pay for child support can be found in a table created by the state. Six states use this model for child support calculations.

Melson Formula

This is a much more complicated, multi-step calculation method that combines the income shares and percentage of income models. Additionally, it considers the financial needs of each parent, as well as their standard of living. 

Lowering Child Support Payments

The court can determine child support establishment or modification at its discretion on a case-by-case basis. Generally, child support is modified if your financial situation changes or your circumstances change drastically. Some of the reasons a child support obligation may be limited include:

  • Your parenting or visitation time as a non-custodial parent is substantially more than the court’s usually approved. Therefore, if you spend more time with the kids, your child support as a non-custodial parent could be lowered because you are acting closer to the custodial parent.
  • Excessive transportation costs to visit the child
  • College education expenses incurred while the child is still a minor
  • There are assets or unearned income that the children are receiving, or the parent is receiving on behalf of the children. This money could be an inheritance from a grandparent, for instance.
  • Child care costs due to a parent working or looking for work
  • Child care costs associated with a parent receiving training or education to help them secure employment or enhance their earning potential if it benefits the child down the line

The Ability of Each Parent to Maintain Separate Housing For The Child

Extraordinary financial expenses that arise due to the joint custody arrangement (i.e., additional child care expenses, clothing expenses, or travel expenses)

There are several reasons why a parent should continue to provide child support in joint custody arrangements. Still, most importantly, child support payments generally give a more effortless adjustment for children. These payments can positively affect a child’s well-being, performance in school, and overall social adjustment.

Parents should try to agree on child support in joint custody arrangements. Parents can develop a parenting plan to track expenses and maintain open communication if/when more money is necessary. If parents cannot effectively communicate, the court can determine appropriate child support payments in joint custody arrangements.

Call Charlotte Christian Law to Learn More About Child Support

Divorce is hard on all parties involved but can be especially difficult for the children of the individuals getting divorced. Our priority at our firm is to provide you with the best support possible and ensure that every aspect of your divorce is considered and handled with the utmost care and respect, including your family. 

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Huntsville, AL 35801
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Birmingham, AL 35209
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Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
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