Alabama Child Support
Alabama child support law is founded on the policy that both parents, whether unmarried or divorced, are obligated to support their children. Read on for information about how to apply for child support in Alabama, how child support is calculated, and enforcement and modification of child support orders in Alabama.
Applying for Alabama Child Support
In the state of Alabama, a custodial parent can obtain a court order requiring the other parent to pay support. Parents can ask the court to order support as part of a divorce hearing, as part of a custody or paternity hearing, or in a separate court action brought solely for the purposes of obtaining support.
Parents who need assistance getting child support can get help from the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Assistance obtaining child support is provided for free to those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and is provided for a small fee to others. To locate the appropriate county office for assistance, parents can visit the County Office Contact Lookup.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources provides help with many different aspects of child support cases. For example, they can help to locate a non-custodial parent who is missing, prove paternity when paternity is unclear, and assist in forcing a parent to pay child support according to a court order. They can also go to court in order to obtain an initial order of support.
When the Department of Human Resources goes to court to obtain a court order, the attorneys involved represent the state of Alabama. They don't represent the parents and they do not provide any type of legal advice or assistance on divorce or custody issues.
Calculating Child Support in Alabama
In the state of Alabama, uniform guidelines are established in Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. The guidelines are used to determine the required child support payments in almost all cases. While an alternate amount of support may be proposed, the amount determined by the guidelines is presumed correct and there must be a reason for deviation from the guidelines that is in the best interests of the child. This means that if parents create their own support agreement as part of a separation or divorce, they must comply with the guidelines or be prepared to justify why they did not do so.
The Alabama guidelines establish the rule that children whose parents are separated should receive the same basic amount of total support as children whose parents are not separated. As such, a table was created to determine how much people at different income levels spend on their kids. This table also takes into account how many children the parents have. For instance, parents with a combined family income of $1000 would spend $187 per month on one child, but $331 per month on six children as of 2012. The table used to determine how much basic support money should be spent is called the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations.
In order to calculate support in Alabama using this table, it is necessary to first determine the combined gross income of both parents together. This includes all money made by either parent from any source, but subtractions are made for taxes, as well as for any other required monthly payments such as mandatory union dues or child support for other kids. Once the combined gross income is calculated, the table is used to determine how much total support the two parents together have to pay to meet the basic needs of their child or children.
Each parent is responsible for paying a percentage of the basic support amount that is equal to the percentage of the combined family income earned. A parent who earns 60 percent of the income, for example, has to contribute 60 percent of the total support amount due to the child. The non-custodial parent is then required to pay his percentage of the basic support to the custodial parent.
The non-custodial parent also has to contribute to any childcare costs and any healthcare or medical costs for the child as well. This is added to his basic support obligation.
Subtractions may also be made from the total amount of support due if the non-custodial parent has visitation with the child.
Enforcing Child Support
The most effective method of enforcement for child support is income withholding. Under Alabama Law, all payments made through income withholding are processed through a central payment center. This means that when a child support order is issued, the employer of the paying parent will receive an order to withhold child support from the parent's paycheck and to send it automatically to the Alabama Child Support Payment Center (ACSPC). ACSPC then distributes the payment to the custodial parent.
When a parent does not pay child support as directed, other enforcement methods are used as well. The Child Support Enforcement Division and the court that ordered the support can both take action to impose consequences upon a delinquent parent. Contempt of court charges, loss of a driver's or professional license, seizure of a tax return and the placement of liens on property are all methods used to enforce a child support order in Alabama.
Modification of Child Support
The Department of Human Resources will review requests to modify orders of child support if at least 36 months have passed since the support order was issued or last reviewed. DHR will also review support orders if there was a significant change in the circumstances of parent or child. If DHR determines that a change in support is appropriate, they will file the necessary legal paperwork with the court so a judge can modify the support order. If the parents agree that a change is necessary, then a court hearing may not be necessary for modification.
Getting Legal Help
The Alabama Department of Human Resources provides comprehensive assistance to parents in obtaining and enforcing child support. However, their services are limited only to child support issues and they do not represent the legal rights or interests of the parents or provide legal advice on any matter. Parents undergoing a divorce, involved in a custody dispute or with more complex legal issues should consider seeking legal assistance from an experienced family law attorney.