Six Steps to File for Child Support
Raising a child can be the most fulfilling job in the world. But, on the other hand, it might take a toll on you, more so financially, as the child will need a good education, food, clothing, health services, and so on. That’s why the government has laws requiring non-custodial parents to contribute to the welfare of their child through periodic payments known as child support.
Obtaining it can seem daunting, especially if you don’t know where or how to start. This guide on how to file for child support will explain the process step by step so that you can get started.
1. Determine if you’re eligible for child support.
Before you even begin applying for child support enforcement in Birmingham, you should determine if you fall within the bracket of eligible people. The law recognizes the following parties as eligible to obtain it:
- The legal parent with primary custody of the child
- A legally recognized custodian
- Any person providing primary care, including housing, to a child without legal custody
- An agency that’s given a child’s control and care responsibilities of a child by court
In short, you must live with the child and be responsible for their daily care to apply for it. You may also qualify to apply if you’re expectant but not yet due.
At this point, you also want to consider whether the child’s paternity is established or is still in question. A DNA test will need to be done in case there are any lingering doubts. By law, the non-custodial parent typically doesn’t live with the child but may enjoy visitation rights. The law can, therefore, compel them to pay child support to the custodial parent caregiver.
2. Request an appointment with your County Department of Human Resources (DHR) office.
If you fall within any of the categories listed above, the next step is to contact your County Department of Human Resources (DHR) to arrange for an appointment. The point of the meeting is to complete the necessary paperwork and set the ball rolling.
You can find the location details and the contact information of your county office on the Alabama state government website. Remember, each case is unique. So, take this opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your situation or the process.
3. Get your documents ready before you file for child support enforcement.
The next step will involve preparing for your case by getting all the necessary documents. Some requirements will vary with your particular situation. However, you’ll need most, if not all, of the following:
- A certified birth certificate of the child naming you as the parent
- Proof of residency in Birmingham, AL
- Your pay slip and documentation of any other income sources
- Information about the other parent’s income, job, and assets (if you know it)
- Your social security details
- Detailed information about the child’s expenses
- DNA results or written statements confirming fatherhood (if paternity is likely to be an issue)
- Last known location of the non-custodial parent
- Any other useful information about the non-custodial parent (photograph, physical description, etc.)
Ensure you provide all relevant information when filing for child support, as it will help prove your case. Some details may also be useful when tracking down the non-custodial parent and enforcing its order.
4. Print and fill out necessary forms.
After you are done setting up your appointment with the county DHR office, you need to print out three different forms, namely:
- Application for Child Support Services,
- Case Information Worksheet, and
- Affidavit of Income.
You can download these forms online from the Alabama Department of Human Resources website. Once you print out your documents, please provide all the necessary information and then carry them to your appointment. Talk to your caseworker if you need more clarification on what information is required on the forms.
5. Pay required fees.
Depending on your income, you will need to pay a $5 or $25 processing fee when you file for child support in Birmingham, Alabama. You can pay cash or by money order at the time of applying. Note that people with Medicaid are exempt from this fee.
6. Seek legal representation.
The Alabama DHR has arrangements with child support attorneys all over the state who can offer you legal representation. Your attorney is expected to follow any legal steps intended to establish or enforce its obligations from non-custodial parents. Note, the attorney works for Alabama and not for you. Therefore, whether you get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or not, there is no client-attorney relationship between you and your assigned child support attorney.
Moreover, the assigned attorney will only deal with, of course, child support matters. You’ll need legal help from other resources if you need assistance with visitation, custody, and other issues.
How Long Does Applying for Child Support Take?
The DHR is expected to open your case and search for the non-custodial parent within 20 days of receiving your application. In the subsequent 75 days, the DHR should get a hold of the non-custodial parent. Within three months of finding the non-custodial parent, the Alabama DHR is expected to file a case in court. The proceeding will determine paternity if the same has not been established. The case must be set for hearing before 60 days elapse.
Within a year of alerting the non-custodial parent, the department is supposed to have closed most cases. However, the DHR should take enforcement measures within a month to two if a parent doesn’t observe a child support order.
You can enforce an order by requesting the court to seize wages from the other parent or their property legally. Typically, the DHR must remit payments within five days of receipt. If you are not content with the department’s ruling, you can always request a court hearing.
Filing for Child Support in Birmingham, AL
Applying for child support can be quite intimidating. There are a lot of processes involved that might prove overwhelming. At Massey, Stotser & Nichols, we understand that a family that sticks together has everything. So, if you want to adopt your stepchild, contact our Birmingham family lawyers today. We will be more than honored to guide you through every step of the way.