Alabama's State Laws on Child Support Payments

By Heather Frances J.D.

Alabama law requires a court order to establish child support payments. Depending on the facts of your case and whether the noncustodial parent pays the child support correctly, further court orders may be necessary for issues like modifying the amount of payments or collecting past due amounts.

Calculating Child Support

Alabama courts usually calculate child support based on the Alabama Child Support Guidelines, which are reviewed and adjusted as necessary every four years. The payment amounts in these guidelines are based on the adjusted gross income of both parents, number of children involved and work-related child care costs. The court can deviate from these guidelines in unusual situations.

Payment Method

Your child support order will likely contain an order for income withholding, which orders your employer to withhold some of your pay and send it directly to the state to apply to your child support obligations. The Alabama Child Support Payment Center receives these payments. Then, depending on the type of case, payments are sent to either the Alabama Department of Human Resources or the Alabama Central Disbursement Division for distribution to the appropriate person.

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Enforcement Options

Alabama and federal laws provide several methods for collecting child support payments if they are not correctly paid by the noncustodial parent. In addition to income withholding, these methods include negative reports to credit bureaus, deducting payments from federal or state income tax refunds, revoking the non-custodial parent’s passport, liens against bank accounts or property, and revoking the noncustodial parent’s driver's license. In certain cases, the noncustodial parent could be criminally prosecuted or forced by the Internal Revenue Service to pay.

Modifying Child Support

Your child support payments may be modified if there is a substantial and continuing change in your circumstances. For example, if you lose your job, have additional children or receive a significant raise, your child support payments could change. The court considers a change to be substantial and continuing if there is a 10 percent or more difference between your existing payments and what the payment would be if Alabama’s guidelines were applied to your current situation. However, the court has a great deal of discretion when it comes to modifying child support payments — it could order modification if there is not a 10 percent difference or deny modification when there is more than 10 percent difference.

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Alabama Laws on Child Support & the Restart of Child Support


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How a Non-Custodial Parent Can Reduce Child Support Payments

Child support is money paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, and may be paid either directly, through wage deductions or through a state agency. Support is considered a right of the child and child support awards aren't arbitrary. The federal government requires that each state use child support formulas that take into account parental income, the child's needs and other factors. Thus you can't reduce your payments just because you feel they're unfair or don't want to give money to your ex. However, if you can demonstrate a valid reason for a payment reduction, such as reduced income, you might be able to get payments reduced.

Does Child Support Have to Be Paid Through Court?

It’s one thing to have a child support order in place, but it can be quite another thing to actually collect the payments, particularly if you and your ex-spouse are not on speaking terms. To help, the court may order that payments be withheld from the paying spouse’s wages and paid directly to the recipient spouse. However, if you and your ex-spouse agree on another way to transfer payments, you may bypass the state system.

Can I Be Forced to Switch Jobs Due to Child Support?

If you have children, your divorce decree likely includes an order to pay a specific amount of child support. Since child support amounts are based on your current income, the court won’t order you to change jobs because of your child support obligations. However, you cannot take a lower-paying job in an attempt to lower your payments.

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