If you and your spouse (or partner) make more than $30,000 a month, the Rule 32 guidelines that govern child support calculation in Alabama don’t apply. The calculation only goes up to $30,000 as of May 2022, revised from a cap of $20,000.00. If you are contemplating child support and the combined income is higher than this, how is child support calculated?
If the parties can’t come to an agreement then the court is tasked at looking at the expenses of the children and at the “lifestyle” they lived. In other words, if part of the children’s expenses are riding lessons and travel ball, that’s going to be allowed as an expense of the child. The Court of Civil appeals have made reference to “reasonable and necessary expenses” but they also take into account the way the children have been living during the marriage and/or relationship. In order to prepare for this kind of calculation, it’s important for you to have an attorney who knows how to calculate support for high income earners.
I have seen cases where people accept far less than they are entitled to and also pay far more than that they should because they didn’t have experienced counsel. One tricky part of the calculation is breaking down the expenses by the number of people living in the house. For instance, if the line item for cell phone costs is $250.00, how much of that is for the children and how much for the parent? Each expense should be evaluated for how much of the cost is attributable to the needs of the children. Then the question should be, is this reasonable? Or is it an inflated number? Could the person seeking the support actually be seeking a windfall by using the child support to pay for their needs?
Financial discovery is going to be an important part of preparation for a case with high income to avoid paying far more than you should be paying. Another way that a client can overpay is by agreeing to pay the child support and then also agreeing to pay other expenses without regard as to what the support is actually intended to cover. I had a client who had agreed to pay his children’s school expenses. After the case concluded, his ex-wife immediately asked him to pay for school lunches. She was supposed to pay for the day to day care of the children when in her care. I told him not to pay for school lunches. Another pitfall is falling to put a cap on expenses. For example, you agree to pay for clothes for kids. You get a receipt for several thousand dollars of clothes. If you don’t have a maximum amount of you will pay you could be signing up for significantly more than you believe is fair. One of the best ways to avoid that is to have a provision that you must agree to any expense in writing over a certain threshold amount.
These are just a few of the nuances that can cost you if you don’t have a qualified and experienced attorney who has dealt with high income child support cases. Make sure you don’t leave this to chance because once you have an Order you will have to seek a modification to change it.