The controversial Republican’s Alabama Children’s Family Act, in addition to radically altering child custody law in Alabama, tweeks the law of child support also.

Currently, child support in the Alabama is determined by application of Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. Basically, in calculating child support, you plug each parent’s income, child care costs, health insurance premiums into a formula; the formula generates a monthly child support obligation.

The proposed legislation rewrites some applications of the Rule:

“Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration shall apply with the following exceptions:

“(1) Health insurance provided the child shall not be less than the best insurance available to either parent.

“(2) Family health insurance premiums due to be paid by either parent shall not be in excess of the incremental premium amounts based on the number of children of the biological parent.

“(3) Any support paid or material items given directly to a parent or child for the direct benefit of the child, with written proof of same, shall be considered same as support and maintenance for sole benefit of the child.”

These tweeks are not very clear nor beneficial.

First, what is the “best insurance available?” Is Blue Cross/Blue Shield better than StateFarm? (These Republican legislators probably think ALFA insurance is the best.)  Is Medicaid the best insurance coverage?  Sometimes it does provide more comprehensive care? Many custodial parents wrongly employ Medicaid rather than the non-custodial parent’s employer-provided health insurance in child support determination; the custodial gets more more money in child support payments in such a case.  (Perhaps, the parents should be required to use employer-provided health insurance if available instead of using Medicaid.) Nevertheless, this section needs clarifying language.

Second, the third paragraph needs some substantial reworking. Currently, gifts to a child are not considered “child support;” only a cash/check payments to the custodial parent count. This paragraph seemingly allows a non-custodian to satisfy his child support payments by gifts to a child? Can a parent get credit for Christmas and birthday gifts? Spiteful parents can abuse this provision very easily and avoid the entire purpose of child support. The non-custodial parents could pay for unneeded clothes, shoes, video games, trips, camps, vacations, and other “material items for the direct benefit of the child” and meet his court-ordered support obligations; all the while, the custodial parent is required to pay for the real upbringing of the child with no financial assistance of the non-custodial parent.

Thirdly, how would paragraph three work practically. A vast majority of child support obligation is obtained through income-withholding orders to the non-custodian’s employer. With all this credit being giving for extra gifts, how could income withholding orders ever be correct or accurately managed?