Alabama Child Support Guidelines
Child Support Guidelines
In Alabama, child support is based on the combined net income of the parents and how many children the parents are responsible for supporting. In making a determination of child support, the Court may order either parent to provide for payment based on official Child Support Guidelines. While every state has its own version of the Child Support Guidelines to help calculate an appropriate amount of support, only the individual set of guidelines adopted by the State of Alabama are presumed by the Court to be correct for use by the Alabama system of circuit courts.
Applying for Child Support
Child Support services are automatically provided to persons currently receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Other individuals may apply for child support services by making an appointment with any County Department of Human Resources office in Alabama, as follows:
– The person having responsibility for and exercising control of the child(ren),
such as a: Custodial Parent, a Legal Custodian, or a person having care and control, but not legal custody of the child(ren)
– Alleged fathers wanting to establish paternity
– A representative of an agency holding custody of a child by order of the court
– Custodial parents with emancipated children who are owed arrears that accrued under a court order while the children were minors
– Non-Custodial parents
Child Support Establishment
Court order establishment refers to court actions to obtain an order for child support, medical support or possibly retroactive support. The court uses the Alabama Child Support Guidelines based on the monthly gross income of both parents. There are other things taken into consideration such as day care expenses, health insurance costs and additional children for whom support is court ordered or provided. Situations that may require the establishment of a support order could be one of the following:
Separation Cases — This is when the parents of a child(ren) are married but separated, and the non-custodial parent is not providing support for the child(ren) and has no court order to do so.
Paternity Cases — When the court establishes paternity, it must also issue an order addressing support, medical support and an order for Income Withholding. In such cases, the court may also decide other issues such as child custody, visitation, court costs and genetic testing costs. The Department of Human Resources and the State’s attorney, however, can only address matters of child support.
Acknowledgment of Paternity Cases — This is when the mother and the alleged father complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital or at the Department of Human Resources Office.
Divorce Cases — This is when the parent of a child or children are divorced and there is no provision for child support or medical support in the divorce order. If there are custody, visitation or other non-child support related issues, you may need to seek legal counsel to represent your interest in these issues.
Foster Care Cases — These are cases where children are in the custody of or are receiving out-of-home care from a State agency.
Negotiating Financial Child Support
As in the issue of custody, the court will have the final say in all matters of child support. However child support, like many other elements in divorce, does not have to be decided only by the judge. In the event an amount may be demonstrated manifestly unjust or inequitable under Child Support Guidelines for the particular circumstances of a case, a written agreement between the parents for a different amount with a reasonable explanation for the deviation from the guidelines may be allowed.
The best measure to ensure the intentions of both parents are met, and guard against unexpected findings, is to mutually prepare a parenting agreement. It is each parent’s responsibility to clearly explain any and all special conditions or unique circumstances to the Court. A written agreement between the parents for a different amount with a reasonable explanation for the deviation from the guidelines is not uncommon.
Determination of Payment
Child support is one of the few things in divorce that is relatively certain. In making a determination of payment, the Court generally focuses on income after taxes, and support is rarely the sole responsibility of the non-custodial parent, because it is understood that the premiere job of the custodial parent is to provide a sufficient household. In all instances in which financial child support is requested, a standardized Child Support Guidelines form and Child Support Income Statement/Affidavit must be filed with the Court. Alabama uses a relatively easy model called “Income Shares” to calculate child support based on the following factors:
– Combined gross income of the mother and the father;
– Each parent’s gross income as a percentage of the combined gross income;
– Any pre-existing obligation to pay child support or alimony;
– Number of children under 19;
– Amount paid for work-related child care; and
– Ability of each parent to provide healthcare coverage for the child(ren) and amount paid for health insurance.
Modification of Child Support Payment
In Alabama, either parent may request a child support order to be recalculated at any time. However, an adjustment will generally only occur if the recalculation results in a net change of not less than ten percent (10%) in the net child support payment. This kind of modification usually follows a substantial change in circumstances, such as a significant increase or decrease in either parent’s income; a child reaching the legal age of majority; graduation from high school, or other major change to the familial status.
To initiate a modification of the child support order, the parent (or legal counsel for the parent) must file a Petition to Modify (along with the accompanying filing fees) with the Court. The petition must demonstrate evidence of the change in circumstances. Typically, the evidence must be completely new to the court. Issues addressed previously in the child support arrangements are not means for modification.
Locating Non-Custodial Parents
The first step toward securing a child support order is finding the non-custodial parent (NCP), or the custodial parent (CP). Verifying an address or employer is a necessary part of the child support court process to collect child support owed. The NCP must be served with specific court documents before a case can go forward in court. Alabama uses many sources of information to locate parents, including:
- Internal Revenue Service and State Income Tax records
- Family Assistance and Food Assistance records
- Social Security Administration
- Military records
- Motor vehicle registration and driver license records
- Department of Corrections records
- United States Postal Service
- Current and previous employers
- Quarterly wage and Unemployment Compensation claims data
- Law enforcement agencies, parole and probation offices
Alabama also utilizes the Federal Parent Locator Service in Washington to aid in location if certain information is known. The more information you provide to the Agency, the easier it is to locate a non-custodial parent.
Enforcement of Child Support
Alabama has several tools to enforce payment of child support obligations, including:
- Income Withholding. A court or administrative order directing the non-custodial parent’s employer to deduct child support from his/her wages.
- Reporting the NCP to Credit Bureaus. If the Non-custodial parent’s arrears are greater than $1000, this information is automatically submitted to credit reporting agencies.
- Certifying debts for Income Tax offsets. If a parent owes back support (at least $150 if his or her child receives TANF or $500 if the child does not receive TANF), the state can report the parent to the Internal Revenue Service and the State Department of Revenue. Support is then deducted from the parent’s federal or state tax refund.
- Federal Passport Denial, Revocation or Restriction Program. If the non-custodial parent’s arrears are greater than $2500, a case may be eligible for passport denial.
- Financial Institution Data Match (FIDM). The purpose of FIDM is to identify accounts within financial institutions belonging to non-custodial parents who are delinquent in their child support obligations. Once identified, these accounts are subject to liens and levies.
- Liens. A lien is a legal hold on property so that the debt must be paid before the property can be sold or refinanced. A lien can be placed on real estate or personal property such as vehicles, bank accounts, insurance settlements or lump sum payments
- License Suspension/Revocation. Nonpaying non-custodial parents could possibly have their driver’s, professional, sporting and/or recreational licenses suspended, revoked or withheld.
- Federal Prosecution. A 1992 law makes it a federal crime to cross state lines in order to avoid paying child support. These cases are prosecuted by federal authorities. Contact your child support worker for more information.
- IRS Full Collection. A last resort involves asking the Internal Revenue Service for action to collect back support of at least $750. Specific information is required to do this, including a parent’s social security number and address or place of employment.
ALABAMA RESOURCE LINE
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general child support law guidelines in the state of Alabama and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
Call (800) 787-4981