If a child’s parents can no longer live together, the courts may order one parent to make payments to the other for the benefit of the child to help with expenses. This follows the legal principle that each parent has an obligation to financially support their children.
If you are a parent who is receiving child support, you are most likely counting on the payments to be made in full and on time. When the other parent fails to make their court-ordered child support payments, it can place significant emotional and financial stress on you and your household.
Fortunately, the law provides avenues of enforcement and other remedies for you if the other parent fails to meet their financial obligations. Contact New Beginnings Family Law now to find out how we can help you deal with unpaid child support.
Court-Ordered Child Support in Alabama
Under Alabama law, children have the right to receive financial support from both parents, regardless of whether their parents were ever married. As a result, Alabama law gives courts the authority to order a parent to pay child support to the other parent for the benefit of the child.
How Is Child Support Determined in Alabama?
In Alabama, when parents are unable to agree on a child support amount and turn to the courts to set child support payments, child support is calculated according to the income shares model. This model reflects the belief that children of divorced or separated parents are entitled to the same financial support they would have received if their parents were living together.
Under the income share model, the child support amount is calculated based on the gross income of each parent. Parents are required to disclose to the court all sources of income, such as:
- Severance pay
- Workers’ compensation
- Disability benefits
- Pension benefits
- Social Security benefits
- Insurance benefits
- Trust income
- Lottery and gambling winnings
A baseline child support amount is calculated from the parents’ respective incomes. Therefore, a parent with significant income may be required to pay more in child support to reflect the fact that the child would have shared in the parent’s good fortune if the family unit remained together.
Although child support is typically paid to the parent who is designated the parent of primary residence, the amount of child support will be based on how much each parent already contributes to the child’s expenses.
Courts will look at factors such as:
- How much time the child spends with each parent (Parents who have 50/50 custody arrangements may already be equally sharing expenses, eliminating the need for child support.)
- Which parent provides health insurance coverage
- Whether the parents split educational, child care, and extracurricular costs
Common Reasons Child Support Goes Unpaid
Although it is presumed that every parent subject to a child support order has the ability to make the payments, there are many reasons why child support goes unpaid. Sometimes a parent intentionally refuses to pay child support. Other times, a parent neglects to make payments or lacks the financial resources to make payments.
Some common reasons child support goes unpaid include:
- The parent willfully refuses to make child support payments
- The parent neglects to make payments, such as by forgetting to send checks or set up automatic payments to the recipient parent
- The parent is deployed on active military duty
- The parent loses their home or job
- The parent is disabled and unable to hold gainful employment
- The parent or a member of their household suffers a medical emergency
An intentional or negligent failure to pay child support will cause the parent to incur arrearages. If the parent has suffered a change in financial or personal circumstances that renders them unable to make child support payments, the court may end up deciding to modify the child support order.
Penalties for Not Paying Court-Ordered Child Support in Alabama
If a parent can make court-ordered child support payments and fails to do so, Alabama law provides multiple remedies and penalties for unpaid child support payments.
One of the most common remedies and penalties for unpaid child support is to withhold money from a parent’s sources of income. The state can garnish a delinquent parent’s paycheck, tax refunds, lottery winnings, workers’ compensation benefits, state pension benefits, or Social Security benefits, for example
In addition to garnishment of a parent’s sources of income, the failure to make court-ordered child support also constitutes criminal contempt of court. A contempt of court conviction can result in jail time and fines until the parent pays outstanding child support amounts.
Under Alabama law, past-due child support payments accrue interest at an annual rate of 12 percent. Finally, if a parent accrues child support arrearages of at least $1,000, his or her delinquency can be reported to the national credit bureaus, which will impact the parent’s credit score and credit report and make it more difficult for the parent to qualify for loans.
How to Get Unpaid Child Support
If you are not receiving court-ordered child support payments from your child’s other parent, you should contact the court that ordered the payments. The court may either issue an enforcement order, effectively giving the delinquent parent a “last chance” to make payments. If there have been numerous missed payments, a court may instead find the delinquent parent in contempt of court and impose criminal sanctions against the parent.
You can also turn to state agencies for help when you do not receive court-ordered payments. The state can intercept and garnish sources of the delinquent parent’s income, such as the parent’s paycheck, tax refund, or lottery winnings.
If you are having trouble getting child support payments, it may be extremely helpful to seek the services of an experienced attorney. A lawyer can help you to understand your rights and options for seeking the child support payments you and your child are entitled to and can take the stress of pursuing a delinquent parent off of your shoulders.
Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act
In addition to remedies that are available under Alabama state law, the federal government has also made intentional efforts to avoid making child support payments a crime under federal law. This law is called the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act.
Under the law, it is a federal crime for a parent to willfully fail to make child support payments by traveling or moving to another state to avoid making child support. A parent can be charged with a crime under the Act if he or she travels or moves to another state to avoid child support payments and in doing so fails to make child support payments for more than one year or accrues child support arrearages of more than $5,000.
The crime is charged as a misdemeanor if the parent has failed to make payments for more than one year or failed to make more than $5,000 in payments. The crime is increased to a felony if the parent has failed to make payments for more than two years or failed to make $10,000 in payments.
If a parent is convicted under the Act, he or she can face imprisonment, fines, and mandatory restitution to pay back the child support owed at the time of sentencing.
How Child Support Lawyers at New Beginnings Family Law Can Help
If you are not receiving court-ordered child support payments from your child’s other parent, New Beginnings Family Law can help you pursue the financial support your child deserves.
Our child support lawyers can help you by helping you to understand your legal rights and options for enforcing your child support order and getting payments from a parents who refuses or who has failed to follow the court’s orders. We can contact the state on your behalf to initiate garnishment of your child’s other parent’s income sources.
We can advocate on your behalf before the court to seek an enforcement or contempt order to use the possibility of penalties and sanctions to force compliance with the court’s orders. If a delinquent parent attempts to vacate or modify the child support order in response to our enforcement efforts, we will vigorously defend your and your child’s interest and rights.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our attorneys to discuss how you and your family can pursue the child support payments you deserve.