Like most other states, Alabama has Child Support Guidelines which courts throughout the state use when determining how much child support each parent should pay.
The purpose of these Guidelines is to make sure that courts order a fair amount of child support that will both provide for the child's standard of living and keep the parent who is paying the child support financially stable. Moreover, the Guidelines also ensure that support orders remain relatively consistent in the courts across the state.
Even though these Guidelines allow courts to use a formula to calculate child support, the numbers which go in to that formula can be up for dispute more often than a Mobile resident might expect.
For example, perhaps the biggest factor that determines child support under the Guidelines is each parent's income. While in some cases figuring a parent's income is fairly simple, Mobile residents need to remember that, at least for child support purposes, income includes far more than just one's paycheck or even what appears on one's tax return.
Indeed, with only a few exceptions, just about any money or other benefit a parent receives counts as income for child support purposes. In addition to a parent's regular salary, things like bonuses and other employment-related benefits can count as income. Likewise, money that is meant to replace one's wages, like worker's compensation, severance pay or unemployment benefits count as income.
Even gifts and things like life insurance proceeds, both of which are usually not subject to income tax, can count as income for child support purposes.
In part because the definition of income is so broad, figuring out exactly how much each parent makes can be a difficult, and even contentious, step in the process of calculating child support. It may be helpful to have the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.