What are all the factors involved in figuring out child support?

Question: I have 50/50 custody of my kids. I’ve been divorced for 2 years and agreed to pay my ex 2 years of spousal maintenance. Now that I don’t have to pay any more spousal maintenance, my ex is taking me to court for child support. I walked away with $85,000 worth of debt, the mortgage, I pay for all the kids’ sports registrations, medical bills, all their clothes, I even paid for them to go on vacation with my ex (without me). I also spend more time with the kids than she does. Although we have them a week on, week off, I coach all their teams and I take them to all their games and practices.

Meantime, my ex works as a personal trainer and refuses to find a job that makes more money or affords her more hours. We got a divorce because she cheated on me. She didn’t have a lawyer at the time of our divorce. Does she have a case? I make $125,000 a year, but I paid for our divorce and I have tremendous debt because of her decisions.

 

Answer:  I am not licensed in the State of Alabama so I am only able to answer this question based upon general practice.  Therefore, the specific answer in Alabama may differ.

Child support is a very state specific aspect of family law.  The laws on determining income, imputing income, what expenses are paid by the child support, and what child expenses are not included in the direct support are going to be determined by the statutes and case law of your state.

In the jurisdictions I practice the fact that you took additional debt or that she had an affair would have no impact on the amount of child support that you would pay.  The amount of time you have with the children would have a significant positive impact on support.  Her income would have a significant impact on the support amount.  In Missouri, for example, when calculating child support at the divorce the maintenance you were paying would be deducted from your adjusted gross income and would be included as income for your wife.  Therefore the child support would be less due to the payment of maintenance.

When the maintenance would end is if the child support calculation would result in a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances” the support would be increased.  In most jurisdictions if your wife is maintaining a consistent level of work as she had at the divorce I do not believe a court would “impute” her income. However, if she is voluntarily reducing her income it would be proper for a court to increase her income to a level consistent with what a typical person in her field would make.  That would require you in all likelihood to retain the services of a vocational expert (please search the archives on DadsDivorce.com for many articles on vocational experts).

 

Spencer E. Williams is the Team Leader over St Louis, St Charles, Indianapolis and Arnold (Jefferson County, MO) offices of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. where he practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Mr. Williams has tried numerous cases dealing with complex custody issues, maintenance, business assets and personal asset division.

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