What is Child Support?

In Alabama child support is governed by Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. The last revision of the guidelines became effective on January 1, 2009. The main change made was an extension of the guidelines to cover gross monthly income amounts in excess of 10,000.00. Currently the guidelines are calculated to apply to gross combined incomes of up to 20,000.00 per month.

Each parent is responsible for a percentage of the whole amount calculated. This percentage is determined by taking each parent’s monthly gross income and dividing it by the combined gross income of both parents.

Child support is awarded to the custodial parent per the percentage obtained by application of the guidelines and it is designated to meet the everyday basic needs of the minor child. The non-custodial parent will pay this percentage in monthly payments to the custodial parent. The custodial parent is responsible for his or her percentage also.

The “rub” so to speak with child support in Alabama is that even though the custodial parent has a percentage to pay there is no method to determine if that amount of money has been spent for the benefit of the minor child. The non-custodial parent however must be accountable for all payments made and can suffer severe consequences if the child support is not paid. The non-custodial parent may have his or her Alabama Driver’s License suspended, he or she may be held in contempt of court, have wages garnished by a withholding order, or may be placed in jail. In addition the non-custodial parent may not claim the payment of child support as an expense on his or her income taxes and the custodial parent is granted through the guidelines the ability to claim the minor children each year for income tax purposes.

There are only a couple of circumstances where the child support guidelines can be sidestepped and the application be avoided. Those are found in Rule 32 (A)(i)(ii) , and are as follows: “(i) A fair, written agreement between the parties establishing a different amount and stating the reason therefore; or (ii) A determination by the court based upon evidence presented in court and stating the reasons therefore, that application of the guidelines would be manifestly unjust and inequitable.” Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicable Administration.

These exceptions are not automatic and are at the discretion of the trial Judge in each case. Rarely does the court find that no child support should be awarded. Most Courts will award an amount of child support consistent with the guidelines.

It is also important to note that child support applies to all persons who share a biological child in common. There is not requirement that the parents have to have been married. If a couple has a child out of wedlock and have ceased their relationship the child support guidelines still apply. This is true even if the father is not listed on the birth certificate. The mother may file a petition for child support with the court and have the father appear. A paternity test ordered by the court will determine if the Child is the Father’s and if so the guidelines will be calculated and applied.

In summary, child support in Alabama is rigorously applied and monitored by the courts and other agencies. This is done to ensure that the minor children rather than the parents have sufficient means to live and have basic necessities provided to them by holding the parents responsible for their children and their care.