How to Calculate Child Support Payments in Alabama

Learn how to calculate child support in Alabama, when the amount of support may be different than what’s calculated under the state’s guidelines, and how to apply for, collect, and modify child support.

By , Legal Editor

Unlike many other states, Alabama doesn't provide an official, online calculator for child support. But the state does provide a worksheet that you can use to calculate a recommended child support order, based on the Alabama child support guidelines. You can find the worksheet (as either a fillable PDF or an Excel spreadsheet) on the Alabama Courts Child Support Forms page. Scroll down to the most recent version of form CS-42 (Child Support Guidelines).

You'll need to have some basic information on hand before filling in the worksheet, including both parents' income, what your physical custody arrangements will be, and certain expenses (the cost of work-related child care and health care coverage for the child). You'll also need to know the basic child support obligation (based on parental income and the number of children) from the most recent schedule, which you can find on the Alabama Courts Child Support Information page.

Are Online Alabama Child Support Calculators Accurate?

Watch out for websites with so-caled child support calculators for Alabama. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that these calculators are accurate and up-to-date. Alabama updates its child support guidelines regularly, but you usually can't tell whether any of these other websites have kept up with the latest changes.

It's best to stick with the official state resources (in the links above) to calculate the amount of chld support you may pay or receive. Be aware, however, that this will be an estimate, or a "recommended" amount. As explained below, the judge may order a different amount in your case.

When Support May Deviate From Alabama's Child Support Guideline

Alabama's child support guidelines take into account both parents' income and how many children need support. The guidelines also make adjustments for things shared (50%) physical custody.

The state presumes that the "recommended child support order" calculated under the guidelines is the correct amount. But Alabama judges may order a different amount if they find that it would be unfair or inappropriate to apply the guidelines strictly. You and the other parent may also agree to a different amount of support, but your written and signed agreement must be fair and must state the reasons for deviating from the guidelines. (Ala. Rules Jud. Admin., rule 32(A)(1) (2024).)

Learn more about how child support works in Alabama, including some of the reasons judges may deviate from the guidelines, what gets counted as income when calculating support, and details on the steps in the calculation.

How to Apply for Child Support in Alabama

Typically, you'll apply for child support when you file for divorce or for a legal separation.

If you aren't married to your child's other parent, you may get help with requesting support by applying for child support services from the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). (You'll be referred for these services automatically if you receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits.) If needed, the DHR may also help with establishing the child's legal paternity (and locating absent parents.

How to Collect Child Support in Alabama

Under Alabama law, any child support order must include a "withholding order." That way, the support payments that are due will be withheld from the paychecks of the parent who's obligated to pay support. The employer will send the money to the state, which will then pay the other parent. (Ala. Code § 30-3-61 (2024).)

But that arrangement might not work in certain cases, like when parents are self-employed or run their own business. When that's true, Alabama offers ways to pay child support.

If you're having trouble collecting support payments, the Alabama DHR can also help enforce court-ordered child support through various methods, such as having tax refunds intercepted, suspending or revoking licenses, or seizing money from bank accounts.

How to Change the Amount of Child Support in Alabama

Either parent may ask the court to change an existing support order. But if you're requesting a modification of child support, you'll need to show that you've experienced a significant change of circumstances that's ongoing and would affect the amount of support under Alabama's guidelines.

You may also submit a written request to have the Alabama DHR review your existing order.The agency will review orders only if it's been at least three years since the order was issued or last reviewed, unless you can show that there's been a significant change (like a severe medical crisis or a financial "windfall"). If the review shows that your order should be changed, the agency will take care of the legal paperwork for requesting a court hearing.

In Alabama, the judge will presume that child support should be modified if a new calculation under the guidelines results in an amount that's more than 10% different than the existing order. But a parent may offer evidence to counter that presumption. (Ala. Rules Jud. Admin., rule 32(A)(3) (2024).)

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