Child support in Alabama is usually determined in a straightforward manner. As in many other states, Alabama uses the "income shares" model to determine child support. The formula takes into account the combined gross income of both parents, percentage each parent earns and several other factors such as who pays for health insurance. Either parent can ask for the child support amount to be recalculated at any time when there is a change of circumstances. There are situations when child support is stopped and then restarted, but they are rare.
Changes in Child Support
If financial circumstances change, either parent may file a Petition to Modify the child support amount. The court will do so only if a recalculation of the payment amount results in a change of 10 percent or higher. For example, if your spouse gets a big promotion and salary raise, your percentage of the gross combined income might drop significantly, which would lower the amount you should pay under the income shares formula.
In most circumstances, you are obligated to pay child support until your child is 19. At that point, a family court judge usually terminates your required support payments. However, your ex-spouse might petition the court to require you to resume making payments if your child is in college and you have the financial resources to pay continued child support. You also must continue to make payments if your child is mentally or physically unable to support himself at the age of 19.
Other rare circumstances that might require child support payments to restart are more hypothetical than realistic. Let's say your ex-spouse hits the lottery and wins a million dollars at the same time you lose your job. Her income is suddenly 100 percent of your combined income; thus, you could petition the court to stop your child support payments. Five years later, your new job pays more than your old job and your ex-spouse has squandered all of her winnings and can't find work. She could petition the court to order you to resume making child support payments. Under the shared income formula, the court would order you to do so.
Although the shared income guidelines are usually mandatory, the court may deviate from them when the parties enter into a fair, written agreement that establishes a different amount of child support, along with a finding by the court that enforcing the guidelines would be "manifestly unjust or inequitable." The court always weighs the best interests of the child in approving an exception to the usual child support guidelines.