Alabama Child Support Arrears Laws

By Carrie Ferland

Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Alabama enacted very strict laws to deal with child support arrearages. Alabama will withhold the supporting parent’s income, charge interest, suspend licenses and even sentence the support parent to time in jail if he continues to avoid his child support obligations. After seeking an enforcement order from the judge, you can contact the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) to assist you in collecting on back-owed child support. The DHR has the power to enforce your order and institute the penalties permitted under Alabama law.

Enforcing Child Support Orders

If the supporting parent falls behind on child support obligations, you can file a petition with the same court that initially entered the original Order for Child Support. If the judge grants your petition, you can then submit your enforcement order, along with the original support order, to the Alabama Department of Human Resources. From there, the DHR can take any number of actions to encourage the supporting parent to pay his back-owed child support, institute fines and other sanctions against him and even sentence him to time in jail for contempt of court if he continues to ignore the order.

Income Withholding

Once you have an established Order for Child Support, you can request Alabama to withhold the non-custodial parent’s income until she fulfills her support obligations. This is done by taking the support pay directly from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck before she receives it. If the non-custodial parent collects unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation benefits or retirement wages, Alabama can withhold your support payments directly from this income as well. You can initiate income withholding after the non-custodial parent falls 30 days behind or reaches a total of 30 days worth of arrears (for example, by paying less than the full amount of support owed each month), whichever comes first.

Other Withholdings

Besides intercepting income through withholding, the DHR can also intercept federal and state income tax refunds, places liens against the supporting parent’s residential, commercial, assets and other personal property and report every delinquency to all three major credit-reporting agencies. The DHR can also charged up to 12 percent interest on all child support arrearages and turn over the interest collected to you upon collecting on the back-owed support obligations.

License Suspension

If the supporting parent is more than 60 days overdue on child support obligations, the DHR can move to restrict of suspend his state driver’s license. The DHR will not life the suspension until the supporting parent pays the full amount of arrears owed to you. If the supporting parent continues to lapse more than 60 days and the DHR suspends his license three or more times in any 12-months period, the DHR can move to revoke his driver’s license completely, even if he pays you the amount of back-owed child support he owes in full.

Delinquent Obligor List

The DHR develops a weekly list of parents who are currently overdue on child support payments in local newspapers and other publications in general circulation. The list will contain the delinquent parent’s name, photograph, address and other identifiable information so state citizens can recognize them, similar to a “most-wanted” list. Alabama encourage citizens to call these parents in using a toll-free number to report delinquent parents when they see them. The state will notify the parent via mail using the last-known address prior to publishing the information to encourage the parent to pay all back-owed child support; if he does not pay, the state will continue publishing his information until he does.

Termination & Limitations

Child support obligations automatically terminate upon the child’s 19th birthday. However, the parent’s obligation to pay the back-owed child support does not terminate with the support order. Back-owed child support is a debt that the supporting parent owes to you, and you have a total of 20 years from the date you first secured the original Order for Child Support to continue collecting on that debt. You can keep enforcing the order even after the child leaves your home, and you may be able to seek other civil penalties against the supporting parent if she continues to dodge the payments.

About the Author

Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.