The federal government requires each state to establish and maintain laws governing child support. In Alabama, the Alabama Department of Human Resources is the administrative agency that assists in the enforcement of these laws.
Child Support Guidelines
Applying for Child Support
In order to start the process, eligible parties must apply for child support.
Who Can Apply
Anyone involved in the custody of children can apply for child support, including:
- Custodial parents
- Separated parents
- Legal guardians
- Agencies holding custody
- Non-custodial parents
- Fathers wishing to establish paternity
How to Apply
Those wishing to receive or pay child support need to apply to the County Department of Human Resources. Applicants should gather financial data and contact their local office for an appointment to make a child support application.
Alabama has two schedules of monthly basic support obligations based on the parents' combined incomes and number of children. Parents' income does not include a new spouse's income. Basic monthly support is based on a standardized table. The rules were changed in 2009, so cases filed prior to January 2009 were calculated using a different set of rules.
A number of factors may be considered in deviating from standardized monthly support. Deviations must be agreed upon by both parties and approved by the court or ordered by a judge. Factors include:
- Pre-existing support obligations for other children
- Child care or education costs
- Extraordinary healthcare costs
- A court-approved written agreement between parties
- Shared physical custody
- Extraordinary transportation costs
- Assets or unearned income
- Combined parental income that falls outside of $550 to $10,000 per month
- Other circumstances the court finds to be in the child's best interests
- Joint physical custody
Basic child support calculations assume the custodial parent will take the tax exemption for the child. In some cases, parents can negotiate tax exemptions and include any deviations in the order of support.
Provision of Healthcare
The child support order will also cover who provides healthcare coverage, as well as responsibility for non-covered health care expenses (cash medical support). Guidelines in this area are not specific, but stipulate if parents have health insurance available via employment or another group plan at a reasonable cost, the child shall be covered.
Review and Modification
In some cases, modification of support may be allowed after the original order is recorded. Periodic modification reviews can only be made every 36 months, except in the following cases:
- A substantial and permanent change in material circumstances (changes in income of either party, etc.)
- When changes in income or circumstances will alter the support payment by 10 percent or greater
- Changes in primary custody
- Financial windfall
- Severe medical crisis
Requests for modification must be made in writing and submitted to the Department of Human Resources (DHR).
The following circumstances are not appropriate for a child support review:
- Temporary or voluntary unemployment or underemployment
- Changes in child support laws
- Changes in visitation status (unless a change in custody occurs)
- Subsequent children with a different parent after a support order is established
Collection, Distribution, and Allocation
The Alabama DHR invoices the payer monthly unless payment is received via payroll deduction. The payer then sends payment to the DHR, who records the payment and disburses it. Payers may make payments online at MyAlabama.gov.
Past Due Payments
The DHR charges interest on past due child support payments. Support orders entered between 1981 and August 31, 2012 accrue at a rate of 12 percent per year. Support orders entered on or after September 1, 2011 accrue at a rate of 7.5 percent per year.
If you are entitled to child support, wish to begin paying child support, or would like to establish paternity, contact the Alabama DHS Child Support Enforcement Division or seek legal counsel. Either can advise you of your legal rights and help you move forward.