If you have an existing child support order in place, there are important new updates to child support calculations you need to be aware of. Specifically, this update was made to Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. If you’re wondering whether and to what extent these updates might apply to you, you’re in the right place.
Joint custody and child support arrangements can be difficult enough to navigate as it is. Having to keep up with new Alabama child support laws can make things feel that much more complicated. Fortunately, you don’t have to comb through these updates on your own. Let the family lawyers at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates take the burden off of your shoulders. Today, we’ll talk about the new updates and what they could mean for you and your family.
How Do Child Support Calculations Work, Generally?
Under Alabama law, the courts will determine child support amounts by taking into account a number of factors.
Examples of these factors include each spouse’s:
- Monthly income,
- Childcare costs, and
- Health insurance premiums.
Prior to its most recent update, Rule 32 effectively assumed that one parent would always have primary custody and bear more of the financial burden than the other parent. Accordingly, adjustments would be made based on this assumption. However, there was a gap in the rule for situations where parents share equal or near-equal custody. This made determining child support in equally split custody arrangements quite complicated. The new Rule 32 revisions attempt to address this issue.
What is Alabama’s New Child Support Law for Joint Custody?
On Friday, March 10, 2023 the Alabama Supreme Court adopted a revision to Rule 32. This revision provides a calculation for child support in cases where the parties are exercising true joint physical custody. True joint physical custody exists where the court order gives each parent physical custody of the child(ren) approximately 50% of the time. So the Rule 32 updates apply when each parent retains physical custody of their child approximately or exactly half of the time. Prior to the adoption of the Rule 32 revisions, there was no provision for calculating child support in cases where the parents share equal physical custody. As a result of the new Rule 32 revisions, however, beginning June 1, 2023, a 150% multiplier is to be applied to the basic child-support obligation in cases where a court order provides for shared 50% physical custody.
What Do These New Alabama Child Support Laws Mean for You?
It means that if you currently have a court-ordered joint physical custody arrangement, the person who is paying child support may now see an increase in the amount they are obliged to pay. For example, if the current monthly child support payment is $1,500, that amount would be multiplied by 1.5 (i.e., 150%), and the new amount owed in child support would be $2,250.
In short, Alabama’s new child support calculations for joint custody arrangements can significantly impact your potential rights and obligations moving forward.
When Do the New Rule 32 Revisions Take Effect?
Rule 32 Appendix A specifies that the rule, as amended, will become effective on June 1, 2023. Thus, it shall apply to any new actions filed or proceedings instituted on or after June 1. However, it also specifies that any actions or proceedings initiated before June 1, 2023, will still be governed by the prior version of Rule 32.
Should You Consult With an Attorney?
If you are currently a party to a court-ordered joint physical custody arrangement in Alabama, you should seek legal counsel. Importantly, doing so is recommended regardless of whether you’re the paying or non-paying parent, as these new Rule 32 revisions have the potential to impact both parties. For example, if you have a child custody obligation, your amount may increase under this new rule. However, if you are the non-paying parent, the other parent may have an obligation to increase their pay as of June 1, 2023.
An attorney can provide value to your case by:
- Explaining the child support guidelines,
- Helping you understand whether and to what extent the new Rule 32 revisions might apply to your case,
- Gathering various financial information that you’ll need to determine your new child support amount, and
- Advocating for the interests of you and your child as you navigate this challenging process.
Calculating child support in Alabama has always been tricky. But adding in a brand new set of rules can make things even more complicated. It’s best to have an experienced family law and child support attorney on your side to help you navigate these new rules as you move forward.
Why We are the Right Fit for Your Child Custody and Support Needs
When it comes to something as important as your family, you need to put your case in the hands of someone you can trust. At The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates, we are confident that we have the tools, resources, and expertise necessary to be the best advocate possible for you and your family.
Attorney Charlotte Christian is on the Child Support Advisory Committee and is intimately familiar with the specifics of this new law.
Thus, our team can provide valuable insight into the Rule 32 updates to help you understand how this might impact your child support rights and obligations.
Below you will find the full text of the Committee Comments explaining the amendment and the logic behind it.
Committee Comments to Amendments to Rule 32
Effective June 1, 2023
Rule 32 was amended effective June 1, 2023, to provide a method of calculating child support in cases in which a court order provides for shared 50% physical custody, i.e., when each parent retains physical custody of a child 50% (or approximately 50%) of the time.
Rule 32(C) was amended to add paragraph (7), which provides for the shared 50% physical-custody adjustment (“SPCA”). Before this amendment, Rule 32 contained no provision for calculating child support in cases involving shared 50% physical custody. Rather, in certain cases, awarding shared 50% physical custody was a reason for deviating from the Rule 32 guidelines, including the Schedule of Basic Child-Support Obligations, pursuant to Rule 32(A)(1)(a).
Rule 32(C)(7)(a) defines when the SPCA should be applied. The SPCA is to be applied when shared 50% physical custody is provided by an order (whether the order incorporates an agreement of the parties as to custody or reflects the court’s determination as to custody after a trial).
It is not to be applied by informal agreement of the parties that has not been adopted by a court order. The labeling of the custody arrangement by the parties or the court is not determinative of whether to apply the SPCA. Rather, the existence of a provision in a court order that awards each parent physical custody of a child 50% (or approximately 50%) of the time is the operative fact.