Child Support Lawyer in Dothan, Alabama
If you are facing a divorce or you are involved in a paternity/parentage case, child support is first and foremost on your mind. We all want the best for our children, and the state of Alabama recognizes the legal obligation both parents have to provide support for their children. The state has specific guidelines on how child support is calculated. However, the courts are allowed to deviate from those guidelines under certain circumstances. To ensure that your rights and interests and those of your children are fully protected during these proceedings, it is important to have a strong Alabama family law attorney by your side.
At Jones & Associates we have helped numerous clients with child support and other family legal matters in Dothan and surrounding Alabama communities. Our award-winning attorneys have extensive experience and a strong track record of success in this area of the law. We have received recognition not only for our skill and experience, but also for our dedication to protecting the well-being of each client we serve. We take the time to listen and understand the unique needs and goals of our clients, and we work hard to provide innovative, practical, and cost-effective legal solutions.
Alabama Child Support Law
Alabama Rule 32 sets the guidelines for how child support is calculated by the courts. The state has adopted an “income shares” model, which is based on the premise that the child(ren) should receive the same ratio of support from each parent as if the marriage or relationship had stayed intact. The court starts by combining the gross monthly income of both parents. The income assessed may be from several different sources, including:
- Wages, Salaries, and Tips
- Commissions and Bonuses
- Self-Employment Income
- Dividends and Interest
- Gifts and Prizes
- Severance Pay
- Trust Income
- Capital Gains
- Preexisting and Periodic Alimony/Spousal Maintenance
- Social Security Benefits
- Worker’s Compensation Benefits
- Disability Insurance Benefits
- Unemployment Benefits
- Other Significant Income
The parents’ combined gross income is used to determine how much should be spent on their child(ren) each month. This is known as the Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO). Once the BCSO has been determined, the court divides the payment between each parent based on each parent’s percentage of the overall monthly gross income. The BCSO may be also adjusted based on expenses such as day care, health insurance, and extraordinary medical and/or educational expenses.
It should be noted that if the combined monthly income of both parents is below $800 or in excess of $20,000, the standard support guidelines do not apply. In such cases, the amount of child support is based on the unique circumstances of the case as determined by a judge or written agreement between the parties.
Deviations from Alabama Child Support Guidelines
Rule 32 allows the court to set an amount of support different from state guidelines under certain circumstances. For example, support payments can be altered if the two parties agree in writing to a different amount and it is approved by a judge. The court may also determine, based on the evidence presented and the reasons stated, that the application of the standard guidelines would be “manifestly unjust or inequitable.”
Some of the reasons the court may allow a deviation from the standard guidelines include:
- Shared Custody/Visitation Arrangements:The paying parent has shared custody of the child(ren) and/or extended amounts of visitation/parenting time that are substantially in excess of what is typically agreed to or ordered by the court.
- Extraordinary Transportation Expenses:There are transportation costs borne by one of the parents that is substantially higher than the norm.
- College Expenses:College tuition expenses have been incurred prior to the child(ren) reaching the age of 18.
- Receipt of Substantial Income or Assets:The child(ren) have earned, received, or inherited a substantial amount of income or assets.
- Extenuating Circumstances:Other facts or circumstances that the court deems to be in the best interests of the child(ren).
Child Support Modifications
Alabama Rule 32 provides for child support payment modifications under the following circumstances:
- When there is at least a 10% variation between the current child support obligation and the amount determined by application of the support guidelines;
- When there is a “material change in circumstances that is substantial and continuing” since the last support order was issued.
A 10% variation (higher or lower) than the current level of support being paid (based on the guidelines) can occur for a number of reasons, such as:
- The non-custodial/paying parent experiences a job loss, bankruptcy, or financial hardship;
- The non-custodial/paying parent receives a significant increase in income;
- The custodial/receiving parent receives a significant increase or decrease in income;
- The child incurs significant ongoing medical or educational expenses;
- The child gets older and the cost of living increases, warranting an increase in support;
- The non-custodial/paying parent is spending significantly more parenting time with the child;
- There are changes to the state child support laws.
The court has the discretion to modify a support order even when there is no 10% variation if the party seeking modification can prove a material, substantial, and ongoing change in circumstance. On the other hand, the court has the authority to deny a modification even if a 10% variation exists if the court finds that the application of the guidelines would be manifestly unjust or inequitable in that particular case.
If you believe that the support payment in your case should be increased or decreased based on significant life changes since the original award was granted, speak with our skilled Alabama child support law attorneys for a case evaluation and to review your options.
During a divorce or parentage proceeding, it is important to ensure that your child(ren) are provided for. After the proceeding is final, it may also be necessary to revisit the case and seek a modification to the monthly support payment. The attorneys at Jones & Associates understand what is at stake. We are strong advocates for our clients, and we put our experience to work to ensure that our clients’ rights and interests are protected.
For skilled guidance on child support and all other family legal issues in Alabama, contact our office today at 334-699-5599 for a personalized consultation.
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