Child Support Modification Case Reversed in Shelby County, Alabama

This is in the case of Chunn v. Chunn, a child support case from Shelby County, Alabama. The case was appealed related to child support and the payment of dental expenses. The parties were divorced in March 2010. When the divorce was entered, the father was unemployed. The judgment required the father to pay $250 per month in child support until he found a new job.

In October 2010, the judgment was modified to require the father to pay $675 per month in child support. In September 2013, the father filed a petition seeking to modify his child support obligation. The mother filed a petition seeking recalculation of child support and an order requiring the father to contribute to the children’s expenses.

Between 2007 and 2010, the father was employed in the banking industry earning approximately $70,000 per year. He started his own business that subsequently failed. The father became licensed as an attorney by the time of the hearing. The father claimed to have applied for numerous jobs.

At the time that the father filed his petition, he reduced his child support to $250 per month. Evidence from bank records showed that the father was depositing an average of $5,000 for a period of time while this case was pending. The father testified that his current wife “probably” made those deposits.

In addition, the father was ordered to pay toward the children’s orthodontic expenses and ordered the father to pay the mother’s attorney. The father appealed.

Affirmed in part; reversed in part.

The court held that, “when a child support obligation is based on an agreement of the parties, it should not be modified except for clear and sufficient reasons.

The parties both argued in their briefs that the trial court made a determination that the father was voluntarily unemployed. The court used $4,500 on the CS-42 for the father’s income, which was the approximate range of deposits made into his bank account each month.

The trial court held the father in contempt for failing to pay a portion of the children’s orthodontic expenses. The divorce judgment requires the parties to pay those expenses equally; however, if the mother fails to notify the father of these expenses, she was responsible for the entire expense. In this case, the mother testified that she had not notified the father of these expenses.

“Given the language of the divorce judgment, we must agree that the trial court erred in ordering the father to reimburse the mother for a portion of those orthodontic expenses and in finding him in contempt for his failure to contribute to those expenses earlier.”

Any time a parent wants to modify child support, a good rule of thumb is whether it will increase or decrease the child support obligation by 10%. It is not unusual to see a change in child support for when teenagers are involved in extracurricular activities. If you are the custodial parent, I advise you to keep track of all expenses related to the activities and prepare a budget. A budget can be used as evidence to show a need for an increase in child support.

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