Alabama Divorce FAQs – Child Support

This is about child support in Alabama after divorce, including how child support gets figured, how parents can change child support, when the court orders for child support to be withheld from paychecks, and when the court will deviate from child support guidelines in Alabama.

This information is from me, Lee Borden, the webmaster here at You can click here to read about me or here to read about my law firm, Alabama Family Law Center.

How does child support get figured?

Child support is one of the few things in divorce that is relatively certain. For the majority of divorces involving minor children, child support is a straightforward application of a formula that is entirely a creature of statute, and most anyone can do the calculation easily. Alabama uses a model called “income shares” to figure child support. The formula turns on the following factors:

  • The combined gross income of the mother and the father.
  • Each parent’s gross income as a percentage of the combined gross income.
  • Any pre-existing obligation to pay child support or alimony.
  • The number of children under 19.
  • The amount paid for work-related child care, subject to some limitations provided by the state Department of Human Resources.
  • The amount paid for health insurance for the children, and the party responsible for paying it.

I’ve posted to the web site all the information you need to figure your own child support in Alabama. Click here to get started.

You can also click here to use the Interactive Alabama Child Support Calculator.

The child support guidelines in Alabama are due to change in 2007. Here’s a description of the changes.

How do you change child support?

Either parent can force child support to be recalculated at any time, but change will occur only if the recalculation results in a change in the calculated child support of 10% or more. The way to force the recalculation is to file a Petition to Modify, which requires payment of the filing fee applicable in the county where the petition is filed.

The smart way to manage child support, if you and the other parent are cooperative and talking to each other, is simply to share your 1040’s each year and recalculate child support informally. If you find out that it’s time for it to change, you can simply have one lawyer prepare a Joint Petition to Modify that you both sign and file.

It is not smart to simply begin paying an amount lower than that determined by the court. If you’re the payor, and you begin paying a lower amount, any time the other parent gets angry with you, or just needs more money, he or she can go back to court and recover the deficiency, no matter how many times he or she may have assured you that it was okay for you to pay less.

Does child support get deducted from the payor’s paycheck? How?

Well over half the arrangements for child support in Alabama use an Income Withholding Order, which is served on the payor’s employer. The child support is deducted from the payor’s paycheck and paid directly to the court, which in turn pays it directly to the recipient. The Income Withholding Order (which lawyers and judges call the “IWO,” is a sensible option. The one downside of the IWO to the recipient is that it may take several weeks for the recipient to get the first payment. Once the first payment arrives, however, the process tends to flow pretty smoothly.

When will the court allow a deviation from the guidelines?

The child support guidelines are mandatory, and the trial court may deviate from them only where the parties have entered a fair, written agreement establishing a different amount of support and stating the reasons therefor, or upon a written finding on the record that the application of the guidelines would be manifestly unjust or inequitable. Rule 32 enumerates five non-exclusive reasons courts may, but need not, deviate from the guidelines:

  • Shared physical custody or visitation rights providing for periods of physical custody or care of children by the obligor parent substantially in excess of those customarily approved or ordered by the court.
  • Extraordinary costs of transportation for visitation borne substantially by one parent.
  • Expenses of college education incurred prior to a child’s reaching the age of majority.
  • Assets of, or unearned income received by or on behalf of, a child or children.
  • Such other facts or circumstances that the court finds contribute to the best interest of the child or children for whom support is being determined.

Courts have discussed and applied the following other reasons for deviation from the guidelines:

Income outside the guidelines. The guidelines only account for income above $6,600 per year and up to $120,000 per year. If the income falls outside the range, the trial court has discretion to come up with a figure in its discretion. This discretion is not unbridled, however. It must relate to the reasonable and necessary needs of the children.

Expenses of New Family. The expenses required to support a second family are a proper consideration in determining whether to deviate from the guidelines, but a father’s primary legal and moral duty to children is not diminished by his duties to his subsequent “new family.”

Other Issues in Alabama: