The idea of child support is this: child support is court-ordered financial support from one spouse to the other after divorce for the cost of raising the children separately. Child support is ongoing, periodic, and most important, for the benefit of the children.
Imagine, however, getting a divorce and your spouse is in jail. This creates an issue for receiving child support from the other parent. It is a different scenario, of course, from the other parent taking a pay cut at work or becoming unemployed for a period of time. How do you determine and receive child support during a period of incarceration?
Recently in Jacobs v. Jacobs, parties divorced in 2013 and agreed that the mother would maintain sole custody of the children and that the father would have no visitation with the children during their minority. Additionally, in this agreement, the parents agreed that while the father was in jail, the mother would continue to occupy the marital home and pay the mortgage in lieu of “traditional” child support (she could sell the house when the children reached the age of majority). Additionally, when the father was gainfully employed, he would pay child support, provide medical insurance for the children, and pay any remaining debts.
At trial, the mother filed an action for contempt and modification to establish child support. The court established the father’s child support obligations at $425 per month and $225 per month for different. The court in Hale County also offset the father’s unpaid medical insurance based on his interest in the former marital home.
On appeal, the mother challenged several parts of the decision. She challenged the determination of the award; the Court agreed based on the trial court’s failure to use the proper the forms to calculate child support. The mother also challenged the set-off of health insurance; the Court again agreed because there was no evidence of that value presented at trial.
The appellate court affirmed was in relying on the father’s testimony that he was financially unable to pay. Here the appellate court could not replace its judgment for that of the trial court and upheld the trial court’s decision to not find the father in contempt.
The first lesson from this case is that the Court will rely on evidence and procedure where it can. Child support not based on proper forms or actual income was thrown out on appeal. The second lesson is that the Court always has a level of discretion in domestic relations issues. Even where someone hasn’t been an ideal partner or spouse, the Court wants a parent to pay what one can afford rather than nothing at all.
If you believe you have a child support issue, you should have an experienced, knowledgeable attorney on your side. To ensure you and your family’s rights are protected,contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 656-0044. for an attorney with the experience and knowledge that can make all the difference.