Area of Law:
If you have children and are about to go through either a divorce or separation proceeding, two of the main issues you will have to discuss are child support and visitation. Depending on the level of civility that exists between you and your former spouse, these issues can be resolved with varying degrees of ease.
Child support can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce or separation proceeding. A certain degree of trust is required from the supporting party that the supported party is actually using the money that is being sent to directly benefit the child. So, if you and your ex are comfortable with each other in that regard, you will be able to allow the court to decide a fair amount of support, and the supporting party can make the payments with a minimal amount of conflict.
The child support order generally mandates both the frequency of payments and the amount that the supporting parent must pay the supported parent to help care for the child. Since there is no streamlined way of establishing child support, most states have their own formulas for determining how much child support is to be paid. Although, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act does lay out certain guidelines for the states to follow.
In Alabama, the courts follow Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration to determine how much support is appropriate. Here is an online worksheet that can help you estimate how much the supporting spouse will be mandated to pay based on the factors outlined in Rule 32. Keep in mind, however, that due to the specific nature of anything having to do with the best interests of the child, the court has broad discretion to consider any extraneous factors that it deems relevant.
Visitation can be even more contentious than child support if there is bad blood between former spouses. The situation that can arise from a hostile relationship is generally not to anyone's advantage - including the child - because what often ensues is the custodial parent will use the child as a pawn to agitate the non-custodial parent. The courts heavily frown upon this type of behavior because it is almost always in the child’s best interest to have an agreeable relationship exist between the parents regardless of their marital status. As is the case with anything having to do with family law, child visitation laws vary from state to state, but the National Conference of Commissioners has laid out suggested state guidelines in the Interstate Child Visitation Act.
Child visitation guidelines are usually hashed out between former spouses through mediation. If, however, you and your ex cannot come to an amicable agreement as to when the non-custodial parent will be allowed to visit the child, the court will decide this matter for you in order to meet the needs of the child. Because Alabama courts treat child support and visitation issues separately, you may not disallow visitation for nonpayment of support. You may, however, file for a contempt order against your former spouse if he or she commits a violation.
*To learn more about how child support works, watch this YouTube video on Free Legal Aid.