According to Alabama law, parents have an obligation to support their minor children. In Alabama, the Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) guide the courts in evaluating child support. These guidelines offer a specific formula to establish or modify child support based on economic factors. Notwithstanding the usefulness of these Guidelines, the courts in Alabama have the discretion to deviate from these Guidelines if the circumstances so require.
Similar to child custody, due process and full faith and credit clause of the constitution of the United States requires that any court that enters an order for child support or modifies child support must have personal jurisdiction over the party to be bound by such order. In other words, for an Alabama court to issue an order for child support, at least one of the child, custodial parent or non-custodial parent must live in the state of Alabama at the time the petition for child support or modification of child support is filed or all of the parties to the action file a written consent to the continuing and exclusive jurisdiction of the state of Alabama.
Child support can always be modified on the basis of the needs of the children and the ability of the parent to meet these needs. When modifying child support, pursuant to the Guidelines, the rules below are to be followed:
(a)The provisions of any judgment respecting child support are to be modified only as to installments accruing after the filing of the petition for modification of child support.
(b) A party seeking a modification of child support must plead and prove that a material change in circumstances has occurred that is substantial and continuing since the last order of child support.
(c)There is a rebuttable presumption that child support be modified when the difference between the existing child support award and the amount determined by application of these Guidelines varies more than 10%, unless the variation is due to the fact that the existing child support award resulted from a rebuttal of the Guidelines and there has been no change in the circumstances that resulted in the rebuttal of the Guidelines.
Notwithstanding the above mentioned rules prescribed by the Guidelines, an Alabama trial court has discretion and authority to modify a child support obligation even when there is not a 10% variation between the current obligation and the Guidelines when a material change in circumstances that is substantial and continuing has been proven. Likewise, a trial court has discretion to deny a modification even when the 10% variation is present, based on a finding that the application of the Guidelines in that case would be manifestly unjust or inequitable.
It is relevant to note that child support payments are for the benefit and support of the children and not of the primary custodian. The primary custodian receiving the child support payments is under a fiduciary duty to use these payments solely for the benefit of the children. If you are facing a situation where the primary custodian is not using these payments for the benefit of the children or you are paying too much in child support or you are not receiving enough child support for your children, please contact our child support lawyers to obtain legal advice on your rights and options.