Alabama Child Support Arrears Laws

By Bernadette A. Safrath

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Child support is awarded to a custodial parent to provide financial assistance with a child's basic needs, including food, clothing and shelter. Support is generally owed until the child turns 18. When a non-custodial parent does not pay as ordered, the owed support becomes past due, or in arrears. In Alabama, the Department of Human Resources' Child Support Enforcement Program aids custodial parents in the collection of child support arrearages.

Child Support Enforcement Program

Alabama's Department of Human Resources has a division in place authorized to handle child support enforcement issues. The Child Support Enforcement Program was created in accordance with state and federal laws. CSE assists parents in getting a court order for child support, as well as collecting unpaid arrears when a non-custodial parent does not comply.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations represents the expiration date of a parent's right to collect child support. When CSE attempts to collect owed support, it will request the court issue a judgment for the amount in arrears. The statute of limitations for collecting on the support judgment is 20 years from the date it was issued. During that 20-year period, CSE uses all available enforcement methods to collect the unpaid support plus interest. Alabama law authorizes an interest rate of 12 percent annually on all past due child support.

Collection of Arrears

The most common and successful enforcement method CSE uses is income withholding. An order is sent to the non-custodial parent's employer, requiring the employer to deduct a percentage of the parent's income and transfer it to CSE for payment to the custodial parent. If the child support arrearage reaches $500, CSE is also permitted to seize a non-custodial parent's lottery winnings and any state or federal tax refunds he may be eligible for. Lastly, CSE can file a lien on any of the non-custodial parent's assets, including bank accounts, real estate and personal property. A lien provides notice of the child support debt and requires that any arrears be paid from the proceeds of an asset's sale before the non-custodial parent is permitted to make a profit. When a lien is placed on a bank account, the account is frozen and the funds are levied and transferred to the custodial parent.

Other Penalties

When CSE is unable to collect owed support, there are other enforcement methods in place to punish a non-paying parent. First, CSE may order the suspension or revocation of any licenses issued in Alabama, including hunting, boating, fishing, driver's, business and professional licenses. The non-custodial parent will not regain such privileges until an arrangement is made to pay the arrears and compliance is demonstrated. Additionally, if the non-custodial parent has or wants a U.S. passport, but owes more than $2,500 in support arrears, a passport may be denied, revoked or restricted until attempts are made to pay the owed support. Lastly, any child support debt of more than $1,000 will be reported to the national credit bureaus, affecting the non-custodial parent's ability to apply for credit cards or other loans. The debt will be reflected as past due until paid in full, after which the delinquency will remain on the credit report for an additional seven years.