Alabama Child Support & Parenting Time Calculations
In Alabama, the amount of child support is figured based on income shares. Parenting time doesn't normally figure into the formula.
The court may deviate from its strict child support guidelines on a case-by-case basis when the non-residential parent's visitation time greatly exceeds what is considered customary. Accurate parenting time numbers can directly affect your child support, whether you pay or receive.
Alabama attorneys and judges often rely on parenting time estimates, even if they are incorrect, because counting parenting time is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents often rely on these estimates as well.
Using estimates means your parenting time totals are wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. This means your child support amount will not be fair or exact.
To calculate parenting time, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to add up hours for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.
The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your parenting time to see if it was estimated incorrectly.
Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total parenting time, and you can see how your parenting time changes each year due to holidays and other events.
You can also track what actually happens, and show how much parenting time you've actually received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.
In any divorce, Alabama family courts award custody of the children to one or both parents. Custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody. The physical custody designation does not have any impact on the child support formulas.
Alabama sole physical custody: The children reside with and are supervised by the residential parent, while the other parent is entitled to visitations. Each county in Alabama has designated what their standard visitation schedule is.
Alabama joint physical custody: Each parent has significant periods of physical custody, which allows them frequent and continuing contact with their children. Overall, joint physical custody is rare in Alabama divorce situations. The guidelines state that joint physical custody will not necessarily mean equal amounts of time between parents.
In Alabama, the child support formula is the same for sole and joint physical custody. Alabama family courts do not give automatic parenting time credit that can reduce your child support amount.
The only way parenting time can influence the amount of child support you receive or pay is when the family court deems your visitations are substantially in excess of those usually approved. The court will make modifications to your child support on a case-by-case basis.
Your best chance for accurate child support is to show the court that your parenting time will greatly exceed what is standard for your county to approve. More parenting time may mean abatement in child support.
Accurate parenting time percentages are important because Alabama has no uniform parenting time schedule. It allows each county to create its own guidelines, making it all too easy to rely on parenting time estimates.
Here are some examples of how parenting time schedules differ between counties in Alabama:
- Weekends: Many counties follow an alternating weekend parenting time schedule, but each county varies in the application. Some counties outline a strict alternating schedule. Others require the first, third, and fifth weekends of even months go to the non-residential parent, as well as the second and fourth weekends of odd months.
- Holidays: Holiday guidelines can vary from county to county in Alabama. For instance, Baldwin County requires that one week of Christmas vacation is always awarded to the non-residential parent and all remaining holidays are alternated. However, Mobile County alternates the Christmas vacation week between parents each year but rotates the Thanksgiving holiday and spring break.
- Vacations: Vacation time also differs between counties. In Jefferson County, the non-residential parent gets 31 consecutive days during the summer. In Shelby County, it specifies that one-half of the children's summer break will be spent with each parent. Baldwin County outlines six consecutive weeks at any point in the summer as vacation time for the non-residential parent.
While an Alabama family court doesn't factor in parenting time with child support obligations, it is allowed to consider deviating from the strict formula if you can prove your parenting time greatly exceeds what is standard for your county.
Your parenting time schedule should be completely accurate to show the court how much time you will actually be hosting your children. Then compare it to your county's standard parenting schedule to show the net difference.
The court will only consider abatement in child support amounts if it is presented with proof that the non-residential parent is engaging in substantially more parenting time than the county's parenting time guidelines.
Custody X Change software can help you create an accurate tally of your parenting time and will prepare a report that you can submit with your other legal paperwork.
Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert earns $4,000 per month, while Mary earns $2,400 per month. They have two children.
Here are the steps to figure out their child support amount:
- Robert and Mary's combined adjusted gross income totals $6,400. According to the Alabama Schedule of Basic Child-Support Obligations, the total child support obligation is $1,192.
- The total child support obligation must be divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted gross incomes. The percentage of the gross income is used to figure the dollar amount. In this case, Robert's percentage is 63% while Mary's is 37%.
- Multiplying the total child support obligation by each parent's percentage share of their combined adjusted gross income. In this case, Robert's child support amount is $1,192 x .63 = $751. Mary's is $1,192 x .37 = $441.
- Robert pays Mary $751 in child support for their two children if she is the residential parent. If Robert is the residential parent, Mary pays him $441 in child support.
In Alabama sole physical custody cases, the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent.
For joint physical custody cases, a family court can award joint custody, whereby one parent is designated the primary custodian of the children and the other is the secondary custodian. The secondary custodian pays child support to the primary custodian.
Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.
Here are some other reasons why accurate overnight numbers help you, the other parent and your children:
- It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
- It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
- It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
- It is compliant with Alabama law
Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.
To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in Alabama, remember these 5 things:
- Alabama figures child support amounts based on a strict income shares formula that includes numbers such as gross monthly income and health care premiums for the children.
- Alabama Rule 32 allows the courts to deviate from the guidelines when shared physical custody or visitation rights are substantially in excess of those customarily approved or ordered by each county in the state.
- There is no such thing as statewide Alabama child visitation guidelines. Instead, parenting time guidelines are created by each separate county.
- To show the court your accurate parenting time numbers, you must provide calculations to the hour of your actual parenting time and show how that compares to your county's parenting time guidelines.
- An Alabama family court may agree to an abatement of child support due to above average parenting time that exceeds the county's customary visitation guidelines.
Use the Custody X Change software to accurately calculate your total parenting time to present to an Alabama family court.