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How to calculate child support in Alabama – a guide to Alabama Rule 32 guidelines

by William L. Pfeifer, Jr. on January 26, 2010 · 1 comment

in Family Law

Alabama, like most states, provides a very specific method for determining the amount of child support to be paid by a noncustodial parent.  While there are situations where the standard formula may not apply, most cases will be controlled by Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Procedure.  Commonly known as “Rule 32 Guidelines,” the Rules of Judicial Procedure provide forms and numbers to use for figuring out how much a person should pay in child support.

(Note that Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Procedure should not be confused with Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, which will be discussed in other blog posts on this site).

Most people paying child support in Alabama had their child support amount established under the old Rule 32 Guidelines.  However, in 2008 new child support guidelines were enacted, which are to be applied to any petitions filed after January 1, 2009.  If your child support was determined under the old guidelines, it may be worth your time to review the numbers and see how much your child support would change under the new system.  The new child support guidelines can be downloaded at this link: 2009 new child support guidelines.

To calculate child support, the courts start with  CS-42 2008 Rev 7-1-09.  CS-42 is a worksheet for calculating child support in a divorce, custody, or child support case.  Anyone trying to calculate child support in Alabama should download this form and follow it step by step.

After completing preliminary information, Form CS-42 requests the monthly gross income of the plaintiff and of the defendant in Line 1.  It is not based on net income or take-home pay, nor is it based on the income of any new spouses, but solely on the gross income (before taxes and deductions) of the parents.  Although some people receive the same fixed income every month, many people on a weekly pay cycle have monthly fluctuations in income.  In that situation, the courts take the weekly income and multiply i by 52 (the number of weeks in a year), and then divide it by 12 (the number of months in a year) to determine an average monthly income.

While taxes, retirement, and other payroll deductions are not deductible in determining income for child support purposes, Line 1a of Form CS-42 allows a deduction for preexisting child support obligations.  Line 1b allows a deduction for preexisting alimony payments.

After determining the gross income of each party, those sums are added in Line 2 to produce the combined adjusted gross income of the parents.  Line 3 then requires a calculation of the percentage share of income of each party, which is determined by taking the combined adjusted gross income and dividing it by that party’s adjusted gross income.

Line 4 is where a determination is made of the basic child support obligation of BOTH parents, which will later be divided by their percentage of responsibility.  The combined adjusted gross income from Line 2 is applied to the Appendix to Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Procedure, which contains a schedule of the basic child support obligations.  The layout of the schedule is similar in form to the federal tax tables.  The row with the income range that matches the combined adjusted gross income of the parties is matched to the column with the number of children of children involved.  This gives the basic support obligation.  To see this chart, download the 2009 new child support guidelines.

Line 5 asks for the amount being spent in work-related child care costs.  This means child care costs that are incurred to enable the custodial parent to work, not babysitting fees incurred for partying or recreation.  Line 6 asks for the amount being paid for health insurance.  These two sums are added together with the basic child support obligation from Line 4, and on Line 7 the number produced is teh total child support obligation owed by both parties to their child.

To determine the noncustodial parent’s child support obligation to be paid to the custodial parent, the total from Line 7 is multiplied by each parent’s percentage of the combined gross income and that number is entered on Line 8.  After determining this amount, an adjustment is made on Line 9 for whichever parent is providing health insurance for the child.  If the noncustodial parent is paying for the child’s health insurance, then the cost of insurance is subtracted from the monthly support obligation.  If the custodial parent is paying for the health insurance, the cost of insurance is added to the monthly support obligation.  This yields the total monthly child support obligation to be paid by the noncustodial parent on Line 10.

There is a legal presumption that whatever number is calculated in Line 10 for the noncustodial parent is the amount to be set as the child support obligation.  There are some exceptions, but they are rare and usually involve cases with complex finances and high incomes.  In most cases, the the number in Line 10 will be the noncustodial parent’s payment obligation to the custodial parent.

Note: This blog post is a revised version of an article I originally published on Suite101.com before enactment of the new child support guidelines.

Downloads:

2009 new child support guidelines

CS-42 2008 Rev 7-1-09

William L. Pfeifer, Jr.

Alabama State Bar Rules require the following in every attorney advertisement: “No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of services performed by other attorneys.”

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