You Gotta Fill Out Those Forms

Another case where the poor trial court tries to award child support without filling out the necessary child support forms. Alabama appellate courts have said repeatedly and consistently that every child support judgment needs to incorporate a CS-42. In Batain, v. Batain, Case No. 2030907 (Ala. Civ. App. May 13, 2005), the trial court conducted a brief divorce trial, awarded custody of the child to the mother, and ordered the father to pay $1,000 per month in child support. The father appealed.

You can empathize with the trial court. The father was a self-employed brickmason who never filled out a CS-41. He presented his tax return, which indicated an annual income of $10,000, but the mother presented evidence that he spent more than that in a month and that his annual income was more than $169,800.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. You can almost hear the fatigue in its language, as if they’re saying “Why do we have to keep doing this?”

On remand, the trial court should order that the father complete a CS-41 income affidavit with supporting documentation and complete a CS-42 form indicating what it determines the father’s monthly income to be. The trial court should then award child support accordingly, either in compliance with the guidelines, in compliance with Dyas [v. Dyas, 683 So. 2d 971, 973 (Ala. Civ. App. 1995)], or, if the trial court believes a deviation from the guidelines is warranted, with the necessary statement of reasons for the deviation as required by [Alabama Rule of Judicial Procedure] 32(A)(1).

This may turn out to be a great illustration of the folly of appealing some divorce court judgments. Note that the Court of Appeals didn’t instruct the trial court to lower the child support award; it simply instructed the trial court to make a determination of the father’s income. The father may turn out to have won the battle and lost the war. It’s entirely possible that the trial court on remand (now angry at having been reversed) may determine that the father’s income is above the guideline maximum ($120,000 per year) and that a child support award of more than $1,000 per month is in order.