In Alabama, one parent will typically be awarded full or primary custody of minor children and the other parent will pay child support. Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration provides the formula generally used to determine the amount of child support that must be paid. If your ex-husband is employed and has a stable income, these guidelines enable you to calculate the amount of child support relatively easily. If your ex-husband is between jobs or unemployed, however, other factors may influence the amount of support you receive as the custodial parent.
Information and Calculations
As part of the divorce proceeding, both you and your husband will be required to complete income affidavits, which state your place of employment, your gross income before taxes, the amount you pay for necessary child care and health care coverage and the amount you pay or receive from any previous family support obligations. If you are unemployed, you must include the name or your previous employer and state what your prior earnings were. The figures obtained from the affidavits will be combined and included on a Child Support Guidelines form for calculation. Alabama’s Schedule for Basic Child Support Obligations will be applied to these calculations to determine the child support amount to be awarded. If your husband is paying child support or alimony from a prior relationship, that amount will be deducted from his income before determining any child support owed to you as the custodial parent. Health insurance premiums and necessary child care costs are also considered part of the child support obligation.
Ability to Earn
Even though your ex-husband may be unemployed when you and he divorce, the guidelines typically allow child support to be calculated based on his ability to earn. For example, if your husband deliberately quit a high-paying job during the divorce proceedings or changed to a job with minimal earnings in an attempt to decrease the amount of child support he pays, the court could still award you an amount of support based upon his former earnings.
If you and your ex-husband share custody, the amount of time that each of you spend with the children, plus what you spend on the children's behalf while they live with you, may influence a child support award. In joint custody situations, the amount of child support may be based upon a court-approved mutual agreement or upon a court-ordered deviation from the standards.
Other Reasons for Deviation
The court may use its discretion in determining a child support award when you and your husband earn more than the maximum amount reflected on Alabama's Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations. The court may also take into consideration the lifestyle to which your children have become accustomed, as well as their current standard of education. Income received that directly benefits a child, such as income from a trust that a grandparent or other family member established, may also affect the child support obligation. Your ex-husband’s monthly bills or his general living expenses, however, will not factor into the child support amount he is required to pay.
Modifications and Duration
Either you or your ex-husband may petition the court to adjust child support payments if there has been a material change in circumstances. The court will consider an adjustment to child support if there has been a 10 percent increase or decrease in income or earning capability, or other qualifying reason. Child support generally continues until a minor child reaches age 19 or a pre-established support obligation, such as educational expenses, ends. If this is the case, your ex-husband may petition the court to terminate the support.