Alabama Child Support Definitions

(A). Child support guidelines established.
Guidelines for child support are hereby established for use in any action to establish or modify child support, whether temporary or permanent. There shall be a rebuttable presumption, in any judicial or administrative proceeding for the establishment or modification of child support, that the amount of the award which would result from the application of these guidelines is the correct amount of child support to be awarded. A written finding on the record indicating that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate shall be sufficient to rebut the presumption if the finding is based upon:

(i) A fair, written agreement between the parties establishing a different amount and stating the reasons therefor; or.

(ii) A determination by the court, based upon evidence presented in court and stating the reasons therefor, that application of the guidelines would be manifestly unjust or inequitable.

(1) Reasons for deviating from the guidelines. Reasons for deviating from the guidelines may include, but are not limited to, the following:.

(a) 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;

(b) Extraordinary costs of transportation for purposes of visitation borne substantially by one parent;

(c) Expenses of college education incurred prior to a child’s reaching the age of majority;

(d) Assets of, or unearned income received by or on behalf of, a child or children; and.

(e) 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.

The existence of one or more of the reasons enumerated in this section does not require the court to deviate from the guidelines, but such reason or reasons may be considered in deciding whether to deviate from the guidelines. The court may deviate from the guidelines even if no reason enumerated in this section exists, if evidence of other reasons justifying deviation is presented.

(2) Stipulations. Stipulations presented to the court shall be reviewed by the court before approval. No hearing shall be required; however, the court shall use the guidelines in reviewing the adequacy of child support orders negotiated by the parties and shall review income statements that fully disclose the financial status of the parties. The court, however, may accept from the parties and/or their attorneys of record a Child Support Guidelines Notice of Compliance that indicates compliance with this rule or, in the event the child support guidelines have not been met, the reason for the deviation there from. The form, content, and numbering scheme of the Child Support Guidelines Notice of Compliance shall be prescribed by the administrative director of courts (ADC).

(3) Modifications. The child support guidelines shall be used by the parties as the basis for periodic updates of child support obligations.

(a) The provisions of any judgment respecting child support shall be modified only as to installments accruing after the filing of the petition for modification.

(b) There shall be a rebuttable presumption that child support should be modified when the difference between the existing child support award and the amount determined by application of these guidelines varies more than ten percent (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.

(4) Health care needs. All orders establishing or modifying child support shall, at a minimum, provide for the children’s health care needs through health insurance coverage or other means. Normally, health insurance covering the children should be required if it is available to either parent through his or her employment or pursuant to any other group plan at a reasonable cost.

(B). Definitions.
(1) Income. For purposes of the guidelines established by this rule, "income" means actual gross income of a parent, if the parent is employed to full capacity, or the actual gross income the parent has the ability to earn if the parent is unemployed or underemployed.

(2) Gross income.

(a) "Gross income" includes income from any source, and includes, but is not limited to, salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trusts, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, gifts, prizes, and preexisting periodic alimony.

(b) "Gross income" does not include child support received for other children or benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs, including, but not limited to, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, and general assistance.

(3) Self-employment income.

(a) For income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation, "gross income" means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce such income, as allowed by the Internal Revenue Service.

(b) "Ordinary and necessary expenses" does not include amounts allowable by the Internal Revenue Service for the accelerated component of depreciation expenses, investment tax credits, or any other business expenses determined by the court to be inappropriate for determining gross income for purposes of calculating child support.

(4) Other income. Expense reimbursements or in-kind payments received by a parent in the course of employment, self-employment, or operation of a business shall be counted as income if they are significant and reduce personal living expenses.

(5) Unemployment; underemployment. If the court finds that either parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, it shall estimate the income that parent would otherwise have and shall impute to that parent that income; the court shall calculate child support based on that parent’s imputed income. In determining the amount of income to be imputed to a parent who is unemployed or underemployed, the court should determine the employment potential and probable earning level of that parent, based on that parent’s recent work history, education, and occupational qualifications, and on the prevailing job opportunities and earning levels in the community. The court may, in its discretion, take into account the presence of a young or physically or mentally disabled child necessitating the parent’s need to stay in the home and therefore the inability to work.

(6) Preexisting child support obligation. The amount of child support actually being paid by a parent pursuant to an order for support of other children shall be deducted from that parent’s "gross income." If a parent is legally responsible for and is actually providing support for other children, but not pursuant to an order of support, a deduction for an "imputed preexisting child support obligation" may be made from that parent’s gross income. The imputed preexisting child support obligation shall be that amount specified in the schedule of basic child support obligations based on that parent’s unadjusted gross income and the number of other children for whom that parent is legally responsible. "Other children" means children who are not the subject of the particular child support determination being made. If the proceeding is one to modify an existing award of support, no deduction should be made for other children born or adopted after the initial award of support was entered, except for support paid pursuant to another order of support.

(7) Health insurance premiums.

(a) The actual cost of a premium to provide health insurance benefits for the children shall be added to the "basic child support obligation" and shall be divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted gross income in the percentages indicated on the Child Support Guidelines.

(b) The amount to be added to the "basic child support obligation" shall be the actual amount of the total insurance premium for family/dependent coverage, regardless of whether all children covered are in the same family.

(c) After the "total child support obligation" is calculated and divided between the parents in proportion to their "monthly adjusted gross income," the amount added pursuant to subsection (b) shall be deducted from the obligor’s share of the total child support obligation, provided the obligor actually pays said premium. If the obligee is actually paying the premium, no further adjustment is necessary.

(d) If, at any time while a child support order providing for an insurance adjustment is in effect, such insurance coverage is allowed to lapse, is terminated, or otherwise no longer covers the children for whose benefit the order was issued, the court

(i) may find the amount deducted from the obligor’s child support obligation therefor to be an arrearage in the obligor’s total child
support obligation;
(ii) may find the obligor liable for medical expenses that would otherwise have been covered under the insurance; and/or (iii) enter such other order as it shall deem appropriate.

(8) Child care costs. Child care costs, incurred on behalf of the children because of employment or job search of either parent, shall be added to the "basic child support obligation." Child care costs shall not exceed the amount required to provide care from a licensed source for the children, based on a schedule of guidelines developed by the Department of Human Resources. Before the Department of Human Resources implements any revision to the schedule of child care cost guidelines, it shall provide the ADC a copy of the revised schedule. The ADC shall, as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter, disseminate the revised schedule to all judges, all circuit, district, and juvenile court clerks and registers, and the Family Law Section of the Alabama State Bar. The clerk or register shall maintain the current schedule in his/her office, shall make it available for review, and shall provide copies of it on request, at the customary cost for copies of documents.