Alabama Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections

When withholding for child support garnishment, an employer must follow the specific rules laid out by Alabama garnishment law. The employee’s income is subject to garnishment exemptions, which means that the employer cannot withhold over a certain percentage of the employee’s wages, even if the payment exceeds the available income. This is true regardless of whether the employee is subject to multiple support orders, or other types of withholding orders. Furthermore, while extra work is involved in enforcing an order for support, the employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee on the basis of a support order.

Garnishment Limits and Exemptions

When determining what portion of the noncustodial parent’s income is exempt from child support collections, Alabama follows the provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA). To find this exempt income under the CCPA, the employer should first subtract all of the legally required deductions from the employee’s wages. The CCPA limits these legally required deductions to the following: federal, state, and local taxes; Social Security and Medicare taxes; any mandatory contributions for a state sponsored unemployment, disability, or pension program; and any mandatory contributions under the Railroad Retirement Act. After these deductions are made, the remaining income is considered the employee’s disposable earnings. The maximum garnishment limits placed on these disposable earnings in Alabama, then, are the following:

  • 50% if the employee supports a second family;
  • 55% if the employee supports a second family but owes more than twelve weeks in back support;
  • 60% if the employee does not support a second family;
  • 65% if the employee does not support a second family and does not owe more than twelve weeks in back support.

When served with an out-of-state support order, the employer should remember to follow the state’s laws in which the employee works when applying the maximum garnishment limits.

Allocation and Priority

When an employee has two or more support orders, and does not have enough allowable disposable earnings to cover all payments, the employer should allocate current support first. After current support payments are made for the orders, the employer should then deduct for medical support premiums and arrearages (in that order) if there are any allowable disposable earnings left over. Alabama does not provide any specific allocation method, just that all payments be made to the fullest extent possible. However, the employer should never exceed the maximum garnishment limits. If the employer does not want to notify the agency every time the employee does not meet the full payment, they should contact the agency for prorating instructions.

Sometimes an employer will receive another type of withholding order for an employee subject to an order for support. If the other withholding order is a state-issued order, or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment order issued on or after October 17, 2005, the employer should withhold for the support order first, no matter when the support order was issued in relation to the other withholding order. However, if the employee is assigned an IRS-issued levy, the employer must prioritize that levy over the support order. The employer should notify the court or issuing agency about the levy. In these cases, the employer can contact the IRS agent listed on the levy to request that they accommodate the support order. If the IRS agent agrees to such a request for accommodation, the employer should get this agreement in writing. 

Protection from Discrimination

An employer may not discharge, refuse to hire, demote, or otherwise discriminate against an employee because they have a support order. If the employer violates this statute, Alabama courts may hold the employer in contempt, with penalties to be determined on a case-by-case basis.