CHILD SUPPORT

What is Child Support?

Child support is a court-ordered payment arrangement designated for the biological or legally adopted children of a former couple. The noncustodial parent is ordered to provide financial assistance for the children. This is typically established following a couple’s divorce or separation, so the children do not have to rely on support from the state. Even if the parents never married, both are legally required to provide financial assistance to their children. The state of Alabama has its own set of rules, forms and calculations for child support payment arrangements, which can be complicated and may require the assistance of an attorney.

Who is Responsible for Payment?

In most states, including Alabama, the noncustodial parent is responsible for paying the other parent who has sole or primary physical custody of the child or children. This means whoever has the child living with them in their home fulltime will receive a monthly amount to help cover expenses. This payment is paid by the other parent. Parents with a joint custody arrangement are also obligated for child support payments. If both parents are employed, then the parent with the higher income is obligated to pay a higher percentage.

The child must be the biological or legally adopted child of the parent making payments. Even in cases of stepchildren, if the children were legally adopted by the stepparent, that individual is required to pay support.

What Does Child Support Cover?

Child support is designed to provide the children with a comfortable standard of living comparable to the life they knew before the separation or divorce. It helps protect them from the financial impact that normally occurs during a separation or divorce. Child support helps cover all major living expenses such as shelter, food, clothing and necessities the children had during the time their parents were together. It will also cover any other expenses needed to help care for the children including travel costs, car maintenance, household expenses, utilities and cleaning supplies.

What is Not Covered by Child Support?

While most child support laws vary by each state, payments generally do not cover education expenses, extracurricular activities and uninsured medical costs. This can be altered if it is specifically outlined in the agreement following the settlement. With the assistance of an attorney, parents can negotiate and finalize what other essentials will be covered by the child support payments.

Modification of Child Support

Modifications of child support can be filed at any point there are changes to the noncustodial parent’s circumstances. For instance, if there is a change in the noncustodial parent’s income of more than 10 percent, then a modification can be filed. Larger expenses such as medical care may also be a reason for a modification. A modification may also be made if there is a permanent change in the amount of visitation that occurs during the week. To modify the support, a petition must be filed in the circuit court of the county where the custodial parent resides or the county where the support order was issued.

Failure to Pay

A custodial parent can contact the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Alabama Department of Human Resources (CSED) if there are issues with receiving the ordered child support. The CSED is responsible for enforcing a child support order if a custodial parent needs help. Any parent who is having problems with late child support payments or not receiving payments, should contact an attorney and/or the CSED.

Termination of Child Support

In Alabama, child support payments typically cease once the child turns 19 or if the child is emancipated before that age as determined by the court.