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For Child Support Order to Stick, Make Sure the Forms are in the Record


A recent appeal of a divorce judgment in Darin Eugene Cate v. Caroline Capps Cate, Ala. Civ. App., MS 2210021 (Aug. 12, 2022) followed an ore tenus hearing in the Circuit Court of Cullman County, Alabama. Based on the trial court’s award of more than 50% of the husband’s retirement benefits without record evidence supporting that conclusion, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the entirety of the property division and award of alimony in gross.


In addition, the Court of Civil Appeals examined the trial court’s child support award to the mother.

The father argued that the trial court should have imputed to the mother an amount equal to what she could have earned as a full-time RN. However, the appellate record did not contain the child support forms the parties were required to fill out and include in the record. The court noted that although the trial court has the discretion to impute income to a parent for the purpose of determining child support, Rule 32E of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration provides that the child support forms “shall be deemed to be incorporated by reference in the court’s child support order.”


Because the trial court did not include the forms, and because the child support calculations in the records did not correspond to the amount of child support the trial court awarded, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court’s child support award and remanded the case with instructions for the trial court to calculate the amount of child support to be awarded in accordance with the appeals court’s opinion and Rule 32, Ala. R. Jud. Admin.

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