When two parents have children together but don't share a household, one parent often needs to provide financial support to the other parent. The state of Alabama assists many parents who pay or collect child support. Although some parents may choose to pay support voluntarily, a state court or child support agency cannot enforce an arrangement without a court order.
Getting a Child Support Order
Before the Alabama Department of Human Resources' Child Support Enforcement Division can collect and distribute child support payments, the parents must have a court order for child support. A parent can obtain a court order as part of an existing case for divorce or separation. Unmarried parents may need a paternity case to establish a father's parental rights and obligations unless they have already signed an acknowledgment of paternity and submitted the form to the state. After establishing paternity, an unmarried mother may obtain an order for child support. In addition, the state also requires child support in some foster care cases.
Receiving Child Support Services
The Child Support Enforcement Division offers several services related to child support. If the parent already has a court order for child support, the agency can assist with collection, distribution and enforcement. If a parent needs a court order for child support, or if a parent is missing or needs to establish paternity, the agency may be of assistance as well. In general, a parent may choose whether or not she wants to apply for child support services. However, parents who receive public benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, must participate in child support services. The parent's TANF caseworker will refer the family to the agency.
Collection and Distribution of Child Support
The Child Support Enforcement Division collects court-ordered child support on behalf of parents who receive child support services. When parents send payments through the agency, the agency records and tracks the payments. The parent paying support may do so by mailing a check or by using the agency's online system. In the case of a TANF recipient with a child support order, the agency collects the payments owed to the parent. In compliance with state and federal laws, the agency must keep a specified amount from the child support payment. In general, the agency keeps all but a nominal amount of the TANF benefit the parent receives.
Child Support Enforcement
When a parent has a court order, the Child Support Enforcement Division can implement income withholding to collect child support from the paying parent's paychecks. The state arranges income withholding through the parent's employer. In addition, the agency may collect past-due support by intercepting a parent's tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service. After enforcing and collecting money owed by the parent paying support, the agency processes and distributes the payments due to the parent receiving support.