Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding child support in Alabama.
1. How is child support calculated?
Alabama has child support guidelines, which can be found in Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. The support obligation is based on the gross income of both parties, and takes into consideration the cost of medical insurance for the children and any work related childcare expenses.
Go to http://www.alacourt.gov/childsupportobligations.aspx to find the calulations.
2. Will I have to wait for my spouse to send me a check each month?
In most circumstances, under Alabama law child support is paid through an income withholding order through the Court.
3. If my spouse falls behind in child support payments, how can I enforce the Court's order?
You can file a petition to have your spouse held in contempt of court. The Court has several options available to enforce the order, including entering a judgment against your spouse for the total arrears plus interest, establishing a repayment schedule for the arrears through an income withholding order, and possibly incarceration for the failure to pay support.
(See our article, Enforcing Child Support: Options for Dealing with Non-Payment, for more information.)
4. If I cannot afford a lawyer to help me enforce my child support order, is there anyone else who can help me?
In Alabama, the Department of Human Resources (DHR) is responsible for enforcing child support obligations. The court can put you in touch with DHR. You may have to wait a while longer for the enforcement of the order than you would with a private attorney, but DHR will assist you in collecting your support obligation.
5. If my spouse files bankruptcy, can he/she avoid paying child support?
No. Under federal bankruptcy law, child support obligations may not be discharged. Your spouse will be required to make all support payments owed.
6. How is child support treated on my income tax return?
Child support is not deductible for the paying spouse, and is not income to the receiving spouse. Neither would report the child support on income tax returns.
7. Who claims the children as dependents for income tax purposes?
Federal tax law gives the dependency exemption to the custodial parent, regardless of the income or support obligations of the parties.
8. Can my spouse and I choose who can claim the children as dependents?
The IRS will allow the parents to transfer the dependency exemption. The custodial parent would have to complete IRS form 8332 transferring the exemption to the non-custodial parent.
9. Once the amount is set, can it ever be changed?
Yes. The Court retains jurisdiction to modify child support, up or down, until the children reach the age of majority (19 in Alabama). You would need to file a petition to modify the child support obligation, and must show a material change in circumstances to justify the modification.