Joint custody refers to the shared physical and/or legal custody of a child after the parents separate or divorce. In such cases, parents share in 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 custody, one parent will usually still owe some amount in child support. The only exception to this would be if both parents earn the same amount of money and spend the same amount of time with the kids, 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 determining 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 who is paying child support to stop paying 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 types of payments will still need to be paid even when the child is not with that parent.
Factors Considered in Determining Or Altering Support Obligations in Joint Custody
In general, states look at four key 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 health care needs of the child
- The number of children
If there is a joint custody agreement, the main factor considered in 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 own 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. Essentially, 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 then 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 percentage of income for child support can be found in a table created by the state. Six states use this model for child support calculations.
This way 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.
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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 if your circumstances change drastically. Some of the reasons a child support obligation may be modified include:
- Your parenting or visitation time as a non-custodial parent is substantially more than what is usually approved by the court. Therefore, if you spend more time with the kids, your child support as a non-custodial parent could be lowered because you are acting in a closer capacity 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 actually 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, but most importantly, child support payments generally provide an easier adjustment for children. These payments can have a positive effect on a child’s well-being, performance in school, and overall social adjustment.
Parents should try to make an agreement regarding child support in joint custody arrangements. Parents can develop a parenting plan to track expenses and maintain open communication if/when more money is a necessity. If parents are unable to effectively communicate, the court can make a determination as to 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 Charlotte Christian Law is to provide you with the best support possible and to make sure that every aspect of your divorce is considered and handled with the utmost care and respect, and that includes your family.
If you need to obtain a divorce in the state of Alabama, please contact us – our lawyers are here for you. Give us a call at (256) 859-7277 today!