Alabama Child Support Law
Where to file: An application for Alabama child support is made 1) in the circuit court of the county where the defendant parent lives, 2) the county where the parents lived when separation occurred, or 3) if the other parent is a nonresident, then in the circuit court of the county where the applying parent lives.
Child Support Standards: Child support in Alabama is based on the guidelines set out in Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. The calculation of child support is based on a straightforward application of a simple statutory formula (CS-42) using "income shares" to figure the amount of child support. The formula takes into consideration the following:
Deviations from the Alabama child support guidelines: Child support guidelines are mandatory in Alabama. However, the court may deviate from these guideline when the parties have entered a fair, written agreement establishing a different amount of support and stating the reasons why, or upon a written finding on the record that the application of the guidelines would be manifestly unjust or inequitable. Rule 32 spells out five non-exclusive reasons a court may deviate from the guidelines:
Child Support and Health Insurance: Alabama Rule 32 requires health insurance be provided for the children if it is available to either parent at a reasonable rate. Health insurance premiums are added into the Alabama basic child support obligation and are divided between the parents in proportion to their adjusted gross income. If the paying parent is paying health insurance premiums for the children, those premiums can be deducted from their share of the total Alabama child support obligation. If the receiving spouse is paying the health insurance premium, no adjustment is necessary. Uncovered Medical Expenses: Alabama child support Rule 32 assumes uncovered medical costs of $200.00 per family of four per year. This amount does not include deductibles and other non-covered medical and/or dental expenses, which may be allocated according to the proportional share of each parent established in the Child Support Guidelines form. Daycare Expenses: The Alabama child support obligation includes an add on for work related childcare costs. These childcare costs may not exceed the guidelines for allowable day care rates, developed by the Department of Human Resources, on a county-by-county basis.
How is Alabama Child Support Paid and Tracked?: A majority of child support orders in Alabama use an Income Withholding Order (IWO), which is served on the paying parent's employer. The child support is deducted from the paying parent's paycheck and paid directly to the court, which then pays it directly to the recipient. Although it may take several weeks for the IWO to be set up and for the recipient to receive their first check, once established, this method works well. This method also better ensures payment and keeps legal track of payments for the benefit of both the paying and receiving parents.
How is Alabama Child Support Modified?: Either parent can force a recalculation of child support at any time, by filing a Petition to Modify and paying the requisite filing fee. However, modification will only occur if the recalculation results in a 10% or greater change in support. The most practical way to address changing child support issues is for parents (if they are getting along) to share tax returns each year and recalculate informally. If the 10% threshold is met, then the parents can have one lawyer prepare a joint petition to modify that both sign and file. Parents should not agree informally to reduce payments, as the receiving parent could force the paying parent to pay back/deficient support any time in the future. A formal petition should be filed with the court if the parents agree to reduce the paying parent's support levels.
How Are Alabama Child Support Orders Enforced?: In Alabama, if the paying parent falls behind in child support, the receiving parent can file a petition to have the paying parent held in contempt of court. This can be done with the help of an attorney, or through the assistance of the Alabama Department of Human Resources (which takes longer but is much cheaper). The court has several options available to enforce the order including entering a judgment for total arrears plus interest and establishing income withholding, withholding federal or state income tax refunds, filing liens on property, the suspension of a driver's license and/or other professional licenses, and possibly incarceration for failure to pay support.
A Paying Parent's Future Children: If the parent paying Alabama child support has subsequent children or families, the court may use the new family as a factor in considering deviation from the basic child support guidelines. However, the paying parent's duty to the children of the first family is not diminished.
Age of Emancipation: The age of emancipation in Alabama is nineteen. Alabama recognizes two grounds for the continuation of support beyond age nineteen:
Tax Issues: Child Support: Alabama Child support is not income for the receiving parent and is not deductible for the paying parent. Children as Dependants: Federal tax law gives the dependency exemption to the custodial parent. However, if the parents agree to a different arrangement, the IRS will allow the parents to transfer the dependency exemption. The custodial parent would have to complete IRS for 8332 transferring the exemption to the non-custodial parent.
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