Child support is a fundamental part of Alabama family law. The care of children is taken very seriously when a couple parts ways and the parents are obligated to adhere to the rulings given by the state court system or an agreement they cobbled together on their own. Still, while the focus should be on the children, it is also wise for the parents to understand their rights and responsibilities throughout the process of determining child support and after an order has been made. In cases where the parties are on amicable terms, if there is remaining discord and even outright acrimony, remembering these rights and responsibilities is important.
The parents have the right to have full and fair treatment. That encompasses the services that are fundamental to the case to receive and collect the full amount in child support. There can be no discrimination with receiving child support services. The case must be kept confidential. People are frequently concerned that their personal information could be at risk and they might be subject to unwanted contact or harassment. The law is meant to prevent this. When actions are taking in the case, the parties must be notified. This involves how the case is progressing, if there is a hearing and other relevant issues.
The parties have the right and are encouraged to participate in the case. Being active is generally beneficial to getting the requested support. In certain situations, the paying or receiving parent will want the case reviewed to decide if there should be an adjustment in the order. A request to review the case can be made every 36 months. An exception to the 36-month rule is if there is a substantial change in circumstances. When the review is done, the state can decide that the child support order warrants modification. This does not necessarily mean the award will be increased. It can be decreased too. The parents can also have an explanation of any action the Department of Human Resources makes. There can be the following:
- A conference with the worker who is overseeing the case
- A county review without needing the worker conference
- An administrative hearing
There are also responsibilities the parents must adhere to. That includes cooperating with the department regarding the child support case. There are different levels of cooperation that may be required. If it is a case in which there are allegations of abuse, it will obviously require evidence and information that would not be needed when simply asking for the child support payments to be modified due to a job change that is not subject to disagreement from the parties. In some cases, there are mistakes such as overpayments. The money must be repaid. The department must be notified if there is a court action regarding child support and the department was not asked for help; if there was a custody change; if the employment situation changed; if a party changed addresses; if the child becomes emancipated or leaves the home; or any other factor that could impact child support.
Any family law case will inevitably have its ups and downs. Child support is commonly one of the most contentious parts of a case. Whether the parents are on good terms or not, it is wise to be protected throughout the process by understanding the rights and responsibilities. Before taking any step in addressing child support issues, it may be useful to contact and consult with a legal firm experienced in Alabama family law.