Child Support FAQs

Q: If we each have the kids 50% of the time, is it true that neither of us will have to pay child support to the other?

No, this is not always true. The courts determine child support, at least in Arizona, based on two factors: income and time with the children. The special needs of the child or children may also be taken into consideration.

In terms of ability to pay, the courts look at overall income, not just the paycheck. For instance, if a person is living for free in a parent’s condo, has a large inheritance, is drawing down in principal on an asset, or has a hefty stock portfolio, the court may also view these as sources of income and use them to calculate child-support awards. Sometimes, the court may look at a party’s earning capacity and impute that income to that party.

Let’s assume, in a case where time is split 50/50 between the parents, that the husband is making $200,000 a year and the wife nothing. Does that mean he will be forced to pay child support? Probably, but if the wife has traditionally worked and contributed to the family’s financial “pie” instead of staying home to raise children, the court may consider the wife’s earning capacity. There is no one clear answer when it comes to child support; every case is uniquely different. This is so even in Arizona where, typically, child-support awards are based on a formula as set forth in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.

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Q: How is child support calculated?

Child support in Arizona is determined by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are located in Arizona Revised Statutes ?25-320. They can also be found at Child support is based on the gross income of each of the parents. Income includes money from all sources including employment, retirement, disability, investments, businesses and so forth. The income of both parents is combined, then the basic child support is determined, and each parent is assessed a part of the child support based on the percentage his or her income is of the combined income.

Additions are made to the child support for health insurance for the child or children, daycare expenses, children over the age of 12, and extraordinary expenses. After the child support is determined, the parent paying the child support is given an adjustment based on the amount of time spent with the child (costs associated with visitation). If there are transportation expenses because a parent lives out of state, these are also allocated.

The judge also determines which parent is entitled to the dependency deduction on his or her taxes for the child or children. This is generally based on the percentage of the child support that is being paid by each parent. Deductions for the child or children can be alternated between the parents, based on the percentages of the child support paid by each parent.

An Order of Assignment is entered in most cases. This Order directs the employer or payer of income to deduct the child support from the salary, wages or other payments to the parent ordered to pay child support and to pay it directly to the Child Support Clearinghouse. The payments are forwarded from the Clearinghouse to the parent entitled to receive the support.

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