from Walker Circuit Court (DR-03-42.03)
THOMPSON, Presiding Judge.
Kay Humber ("the mother") appeals from a judgment
of the Walker Circuit Court ("the trial court")
suspending the child-support obligation of Austin Levi
Humber, Jr. ("the father"), "until such time
[as the mother] can prove to the Court beyond a reasonable
doubt that [the father] can pay the court ordered child
record indicates the following. The parties divorced in 2003.
According to the pleadings in this matter, on June 23, 2006,
the trial court ordered the father to pay child support in
the amount of $1, 299 for the parties' two children. On
September 16, 2015, the father filed in the trial court a
petition to modify his child-support obligation alleging
that, since the entry of the June 2006 order, there had been
a material change in circumstances warranting of modification
of that order. At the May 27, 2016, hearing on the
modification petition, the father testified that he had
worked for United States Steel Corporation ("USX")
for 21 years but that he had been laid off on August 23,
2015. The father testified that whether USX would call him
back was "still up in the air."
demonstrated that, before he was laid off, the father's
annual gross income was $53, 463. When the 2006 child-support
order was entered, the father had earned a gross annual
income of $64, 800. At the time of the hearing, the father
testified that the unemployment benefits he had received from
the State of Alabama because of the layoff had expired.
However, the record indicates that he had not sought to make
a new claim for further state unemployment benefits, which
his notice of final payment under his initial claim directed.
The father testified that he still received
"supplemental unemployment benefits" from USX.
Documents showed that, from January 1, 2016, to April 2,
2016, the father had received $5, 394 from USX. He said that
he received from USX a net income of $465 every two weeks but
that he would lose the supplemental unemployment benefits
after he had been laid off for two years. He also continued
to receive family health insurance through USX. The father
testified that he is not able to meet his monthly
child-support obligation of $1, 299 because, he said, he does
not even bring home that much money each month. Evidence
indicates that the father had made partial payments of
varying amounts toward his child-support obligation at
various times since being laid off.
father said that he had applied for dozens of jobs since
being laid off from USX and that he had even had some offers.
However, he said, the jobs he was offered paid between $8 and
$9 an hour. The father testified that, after taxes, he
received approximately the same amount from his supplemental
unemployment benefits from USX as he would have received from
those jobs. Furthermore, if he took one of those jobs, the
father said, USX required that he take the new employer's
health insurance as his primary insurance. USX provided the
family with health insurance at no cost to the father. The
father said that he felt like he was "stuck between a
rock and a hard place" regarding whether it was better
to remain unemployed and rely on his USX supplemental
unemployment benefits or to accept a lower-paying job.
father testified that, at the time of the hearing, he was
enrolled in a program that "pays for people that were
displaced because of foreign products to learn another trade,
" and, through that program, he was enrolled at a
community college, taking courses to become an electrician.
father also testified that, when he was laid off, he was just
two days from being fully vested with USX for retirement
purposes. He explained USX's retirement policy and said
that, because of the layoff, he now had to wait until August
2017, the month he turns 47, to be eligible to receive his
pension. He said that he did not know the specific amount his
pension benefit would be at that time, but he estimated that
it would be between $2, 200 and $2, 500 a month.
mother testified that she was an area supervisor for a
fast-food restaurant. She said that her gross annual income
at the time of the hearing was $89, 400. At the time of the
hearing, the parties' children were ages 16 and 14.
evidentiary hearing was held on May 27, 2016. That same day,
the trial court filed a completed "Child-Support
Guidelines" form ("the CS-42 form") on which
it calculated the parties' respective child-support
obligations. The form reflects that the father had a gross
monthly income of $1, 560 and that the mother had a gross
monthly income of $7, 450. The trial court determined that
the father's percentage share of income was 17.31% and
that his basic child-support obligation, reflected on line
four of the form, was $1, 438. However, on line eight of the
form, the trial court found that the father's
child-support obligation was $318.23. The trial court then
gave the father a $400 adjustment for the payment of health
insurance for the children, resulting in a deficit of $81.77
as the "recommended child support order."
on May 27, 2016, the trial court entered a judgment finding
that, as a result of being laid off from USX, the
father's income had been "dramatically reduced from
over $5, 000 a month to only receiving unemployment
supplemental income of $250 every two weeks. Once [the
father] was laid off, his ability to pay his child support
was impaired if not completely damaged." In the
judgment, the trial court stated:
"Once [the father] provided the Court the evidence of
his inability to pay the court ordered amount, [the mother]
was obligated to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [the
father] was financially able to pay the amount of child
support ordered. She did not provide the evidence to support
the evidentiary burden imposed by law."
trial court also found that the father could not "obtain
work at a sufficient income level to pay his child support
without sacrificing his children's health." The
"The Court did calculate child support taking into
consideration a $9 an hour at 40 hours a week job for [the
father] with him still paying the health insurance and [the
mother's] current income. His child support payment would
be -$82 a month. The parties can recognize a negative child
support amount is ...