$4B owed in back child support cases in Alabama

Avg. amt owed in child support case $19,000

It is a highly charged, emotional issue: child support collections. Non-custodial parents sometimes jump from job to job or move repeatedly to avoid their responsibility. Then there are others who simply don't have the means to pay and fall farther and farther behind.

The largest amount owed in an Alabama case is $1.6 million dollars, which includes the child support payments and arrears. The average amount owed in Alabama is $19,000. Interest for non-payment runs 7.5%. In Jefferson County DHR oversees 29,000 cases.

Lisa Davis is one of those cases. She is owed $100,000 from her daughter's father. There is an arrest writ out for James Stuart Rhodes but with no good address, it is unlikely Davis will ever collect. She says the state needs to dedicate more resources to catching deadbeats.

Assistant Director for Jefferson County DHR, Doug Heath, says a good number of their clients are receiving government assistance for housing and medical care so this is an issue that costs taxpayers.

Heath says there is a move now to put more focus on the non-custodial parent who does want to be a part of their child's life and help support them. Programs are designed to help them find jobs and transportation so they can be in a better position to make their payments. Mental and substance abuse counseling may also be available.

He advises custodial parents to provide as much information as they can to their caseworkers especially if there is a job or an address change. He says DHR does not have investigators that track people down.

Heath recommends everyone use DHR's free service to make child support payments. That way there is no question on what has been paid.

DHR complied statistics on collections and helped us separate some common myths from the facts when it comes to the child support program.

As of February 2018, 213,686 cases amounted to a total of $4 billion owed in back child support in Alabama.

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