Child support is an essential part of the divorce and custody process. It is important to know what rights you have to receive and give child support. In the state of Alabama, these rights are protected and enforced by the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSE) of Alabama Department of Human Resources.

Who Needs to Pay Child Support in Alabama?

Under Rule 32 of Alabama’s laws on custody and support, the parent that does not have custody (the “noncustodial parent”)  is required to pay child support. Even if the paying parent has visitation, they cannot escape their child support obligation.

However, the amount that they are expected to pay can be reduced if visitation is more than the normal amount of visitation because the noncustodial parent is taking on more of the daily financial burden of raising the child.

Standard visitation in Alabama is usually the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of a month, plus Wednesday from 3 pm to Thursday to 8 pm. For a child’s summer vacation, standard visitation usually consists of half of the summer. These may also be adjusted according to the individual needs of the child. When making any type of determination regarding child support, custody, or visitation, courts will always prioritize the child’s needs over the parents’ needs.  

As previously mentioned, child support can be reduced if the noncustodial parent has the child for more time than just every other weekend, one day per week, and half of the child’s summer vacation.

How Do I Petition for Child Support in Alabama?

You can file for a petition for support with the court during your custody or divorce proceedings, but you will first need to figure out both parents’ financial information. Also, you will need to find the other parent and establish paternity if it has not been done already.

You can get help from the court in these matters by asking for the State IV-D Attorney’s assistance. That lawyer can then find out all the financial information about both parents and help establish paternity and present that information to the court.

Once the court has all of this information, as well as other information such as the child’s current cost of living, it will determine how much financial support the noncustodial parent should provide to the custodial parent and issue an order requiring the noncustodial parent to pay that amount.

If both parents can agree on a child support amount on their own without the aid of the State IV-D Attorney, then they can submit their own voluntary child support agreement instead.

What If the Other Parent Will Not Pay Child Support?

If the other parent refuses to pay child support, there are several options available to you for enforcement through the Department of Human Resources’ CSE Division. One way to enforce a child support order is known as income withholding, where the state will take the money directly from the person’s check. If a parent is $1,000 behind on child support payments, it can be reported to the Credit Bureaus.

The court can also take measures to enforce the child support order. For instance, it can have the delinquent parent’s income tax refunds garnished. If a parent owes $1,000 or more, the court may place a lien on personal or real property.

The court can also find the non-paying parent in civil contempt and put them in jail for failing to adhere to the terms of the child support order. A noncustodial parent can even be arrested and brought to court if there is a “failure to appear” because the other parent does not show up to court for a child support hearing.

What If I am Struggling to Pay or Cannot Afford to Pay for Child Support in Alabama?

Typically, when the noncustodial parent stops paying child support, the custodial parent will refuse to allow the child to engage in visitation. However, if the custodial parent refuses to let the non-custodial parent have visitation, then the non-custodial parent has the right to demand visitation. Even if you are behind on your child support, you cannot be denied visitation in Alabama.

You can ask the court for a contempt hearing to find the other parent in contempt for not letting you visit your children as ordered by the court. You will have to show how you tried to exercise your visitation rights and how the other parent denied you. However, you should know that if you are behind on payments, you might be in contempt too.

You can also request that the court modify your child support payments to lower your payment amount. In order to convince a judge to lower the amount you are required to pay, you will need to show a significant change in your circumstances, usually in terms of your finances (such as a loss of employment).

How Can I Stop Paying Child Support in Alabama?

There are some legal ways to stop paying child support. The first, and maybe easiest, is to reach some sort of agreement with the other parent. You could agree between each other to not pay child support, but, perhaps, equally split the parenting efforts instead.

Even if you come up such an agreement, it does have to be approved by the court, who may deny the agreement if it is not in the best interest of the child. If coming up with such an agreement does not work, you can fill out a petition of paternity if you think you are not the biological father.

Where Can I Find the Right Child Custody Lawyer in Alabama?

It is important to find a child support lawyer in Alabama who can better help you in your efforts to reach a good child support arrangement with your child’s other parent. A lawyer’s assistance is especially necessary when you need to enforce or alter a child support order.