For cases filed on or after June 1, 2023, the state of Alabama has implemented new child support guidelines specifically tailored for joint custody cases. This development is a significant step forward in addressing the unique needs of families who share parenting responsibilities equally (or close to equally). In this blog post, we will provide an overview of these new guidelines and what they mean for families in Alabama.
Joint physical custody, also known as shared physical custody, is an arrangement where children split their time equally (or close to equally) between each parent’s home, ensuring that both parents have frequent and substantial contact with their children. Alabama courts are to consider joint custody in every case, although they may ultimately award any form of custody that is determined to be in the best interest of the children.
While joint physical custody arrangements offer many benefits for children, they can also present unique financial challenges for parents. Traditional child guidelines were primarily designed for cases where one parent had sole physical custody and the other parent had visitation rights.
The provisions for child support calculations where there is “shared 50% physical custody” are set out in Rule 32(C)(7) of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. The new child support guidelines for joint custody cases have the following key features:
- The child support guidelines utilize an income-sharing model that takes into account both parent’s incomes.
- The guidelines recognize that children have specific financial needs, including housing, education, and extracurricular activities. The guidelines take into account these expenses when calculating the base amount of child support.
- The calculation of child support specifically factors in the cost of health insurance coverage attributable to the minor children and the cost of work-related childcare for younger children, as well as what amount each parent is paying toward those expenses.
- If a court finds that a parent with joint physical custody willfully fails to exercise his or her physical custody for more than fourteen days in the twelve consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of a petition to modify child support, the court has the discretion to modify the child support retroactively to the date of the filing of the petition and to award attorney fees and costs.
The implementation of specialized child support guidelines for joint custody cases in Alabama offers several benefits to families:
- Fairness: These guidelines promote fairness by taking into account the unique dynamics of joint custody arrangements, ensuring that both parents contribute equitably to their child’s well-being.
- Reduced Conflicts: Clear guidelines can help reduce conflicts between parents by providing a transparent framework for determining child support obligations and promoting settlement.
- Child-Centered Approach: The guidelines prioritize the needs of the children, ensuring they have access to the resources necessary for proper growth and development.
Alabama’s child support guidelines for joint custody cases are a significant step forward in addressing the needs of modern families. These guidelines recognize the importance of shared parenting responsibilities and aim to ensure that financial support is allocated fairly. If you are involved in a joint custody case, it is important for you to consult with a family law attorney who can guide you through the child support guidelines and help you navigate the legal process. We are here to assist you in understanding the changes in the law.
Rebekah L. Graham, Esq.
This blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the attorneys at Rebekah L. Graham & Associates. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.