Ordering and enforcing child support in Alabama divorce cases

Alabama uses a strict set of guidelines when establishing and enforcing child support orders in the state, keeping the child's best interest in mind.

Whether born to married or unmarried parents, Alabama children have the right to receive emotional and financial support from both of their parents. With this understanding, Alabama has established child support guidelines which are used in cases where couples are unable to reach an agreement regarding child support payments on their own. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, it is crucial that children involved in a separation are taken care of in order to minimize any emotional trauma that may come with divorce.

Establishing child support

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama uses the income shares model when calculating child support payments. This model stems from the belief that children of divorced parents are entitled to the same financial support that they would have received if their parents had remained together.

To establish a child support order, paternity must first be determined, according to Alabama Courts. The child support amount is then calculated based on the gross income of each parent. Parents are required to disclose all sources of income, including bonuses, severance pay, workers' compensation benefits, disability benefits, Social Security benefits, insurance benefits, annuities, trust income, pensions and even lottery winnings, gifts and prizes.

Other important details, including how much time the child spends with each parent, medical insurance coverage, education costs and child care expenses, are also factored into the child support order. Some parents may choose to share extracurricular expenses as well.

Child support enforcement

While there are many caring non-custodial parents who diligently make their child support payments, there are also parents who fail to see the importance of supporting their child. The Alabama Child Support Enforcement Program uses several tactics to regain a child's unpaid financial support. One of the most common methods is to withhold income directly from the obligator's paycheck. The state may also intercept the obligator's lottery winnings, tax refunds or workers' compensation benefits in an attempt to enforce the child support order.

Since child support is court-ordered, failure to make payments will result in contempt of court, which could result in jail time for the non-custodial parent. Once the parent has failed to pay $1,000 in past child support funds, the information will be reported to the credit bureau. This will ultimately affect the negligent parent's ability to purchase property or qualify for loans. In Alabama, any past due child support accumulates interest at 12 percent each year.

Partnering with an attorney

Going through a divorce can be extremely emotional. The stress involved may affect your ability to make rational decisions, which could have long-lasting consequences. A lawyer can help you understand the legal process and walk you through every step of the way. You need someone to look out for your child's best interests during this hard time.

Keywords: divorce, custody, child support