How Does Child Support Affect Custody?

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This article was reviewed and approved for publication by Attorney Charlotte Christian.
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Child support and custody arrangements usually go hand in hand. Some types of custody agreements can affect the child support obligation. In many cases, there will be a custodial parent who receives child support payments from the noncustodial parent.

However, several factors are considered when determining both custody agreements and child support payments. Deciding on the type of custody arrangement can be an emotional part of a divorce or separation. It is important to try to work together to create the best possible arrangement for your child.

The Income Shares Model

From the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the income shares model was developed to give children the same level of support they would receive from each parent if their parents had remained together. These guidelines were put into place under the assumption that the custodial parent would spend the child support they receive directly for the children.

The type of custody arrangement may affect the amount of child support a parent might pay. The most common reason the custody arrangement affects the child support is if the parents share custody, which is joint custody.

Joint Custody

The Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration created guidelines to properly calculate the amount of child support one parent will pay if they share custody. In this situation, each parent has primary physical custody of their children. If this is the case, child support should be calculated with the following steps:

  1. Calculate the amount of child support the father would owe to the mother.
  2. Calculate the amount of child support the mother would owe to the father.
  3. Subtract the lesser child support obligation from the greater. The parent who owes the greater obligation will pay the other parent the difference.

These cases ensure the parent would still owe some child support to help maintain the child’s home life at the other parent’s home.

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Types of Custody Agreements

Custody arrangements are meant to fit the needs of your family. The custody agreement chosen has the potential to affect the amount of the child support obligation. Custody agreements could include:

  • Physical custody: This can be joint or sole physical custody. Joint physical custody is when the child or children split time between both parents’ homes. Sole physical custody is when the child or children live at one parents’ home and the other parent may have visitation rights.
  • Legal custody: This can be joint or sole legal custody. Both parents have the right and obligation to make decisions about their child’s care if they have joint legal custody. For sole legal custody, one parent is legally responsible to make decisions for the child’s care, including medical and educational decisions.

The final custody agreement should include both physical and legal custody. According to the NCSL, often more child support will be paid when the noncustodial parent spends more time with their child.

How the Courts Make Custody Decisions

The courts in Alabama make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the child. The judge determines what is best for the child depending on several factors. These factors include:

  • The child’s gender and age
  • The physical and mental health of the parents
  • The lifestyle factors of the parent
  • The parent’s ability to provide necessities for the child, including shelter, food, or medical care
  • The quality of education the child would receive in each situation
  • If the child is mature enough to express an opinion, the judge might consider the child’s preference

Can Custody Arrangements and Child Support Be Modified?

In Alabama, custody arrangements and child support orders can be modified if there is a justifiable reason. Some of these reasons include:

  • A written agreement between both parents explaining the reasons why they propose a different custody arrangement or child support obligation.
  • If one parent presents evidence to the court proving the change of the child support and custody arrangement needs to be changed. The judge will have the authority to approve or deny the petition.

Call Our Offices Today for a Consultation

If you are interested in learning more about how child support affects custody, call Charlotte Christian Law today for a consultation where we can answer your questions. If you are ready to move forward with a child custody or child support case or modification, we can help.

Our attorneys want to make sure you are aware of Alabama laws regarding custody and child support so you can make the most informed decision for your family. Contact us today for a case review.

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