Being a parent comes with a long list of responsibilities; you are charged with relatively minor tasks like getting your child to the bus stop on time and the much larger ones like making sure your child receives medical treatment following an injury. While state law doesn’t outline every parental obligation, it does require parents to provide financial support until a child reaches adulthood. When parents separate or divorce, there is often conflict as to how the expenses of raising a child will be shared. When parents cannot reach an agreement, the judiciary of Arizona will step in to determine a fair child custody arrangement.
In most cases, the non-custodial parent is responsible for making child support payments to the custodial parent. This is the case even if the custodial parent has a high income level because under the law children have the right to benefit from both parents’ incomes. In some cases, if neither parent has custody, both parents may be required to make support payments to a third party who is responsible for the child’s care.
The courts generally adhere to an objective process when determining the proper child support amount. In Arizona, child support is determined by a formula know as the Arizona Child Support Guidelines Formula. The calculation of support payments is based on a number of financial factors, including:
- The income of both parents
- The amount of parenting time that each parent has
- Daycare or educational costs
- Cost of health insurance
- Age of children
- Whether parents have children from a previous relationship that they are supporting
It’s important to note that while the judge presiding over your case will use the state’s formula as a guideline for his or her ruling, the court can deviate from it, if there is significant reason to do so. An experienced attorney can help you to identify all of the assets on the table, and take your specific circumstances into account, making an argument that the guidelines should be used or alternate criteria is needed for the well-being of the child and the financial health of both parents.
Enforcement of Child Support
Once the judge issues a child support order, all parties must comply with the ruling, making regular payments on a schedule set forth by the court. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and many parents are guilty of violating these orders each year. If you are struggling to collect support payments from your child’s other parent, there are actions that you can take to get the money you and your child deserve. Enforcement remedies may include the following:
- Income Withholding Order
- State Tax Refund Offset
- Asset Seizure
- Credit Bureau Reporting
- Liens on Property
- Lottery Winnings Offset
- Suspension or Revocation of Licenses
Failure to pay child support is a criminal offense, and the guilty party may be subject to state or federal prosecution for missed support payments. An experienced family law attorney can help you to identify the best course of action based on the circumstances of your case and initiate the legal proceedings to ensure you receive back child support owed to you and regular payments going forward.
Modification of Child Support
Either party can request a modification to an existing child support order provided there has been a “significant and continuing change within the household.” An example of this might be if a parent is seriously injured and can no longer work. In Arizona, only the Superior Court can grant a child support modification. If you are seeking a modification to your child support order, you should contact an experienced family law attorney who can review the current provisions of your order and see if you qualify for a modification. Your attorney will then work with you to file the appropriate forms with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where the original support order was determined.
The issue of child custody is a sensitive one for most parents, often resulting in emotionally charged conflicts. Whether you are just initiating the divorce process and need to consider your child support options or you are a single father looking to modify your current order, our law firm can help. With years of experience and a diverse team of professionals, we offer personalized solutions to get you the financial support you need to raise your child. Call us today at (480) 351-4804 or email us for a free, confidential consultation.
Child Support FAQs
- 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?
- How is child support calculated?
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.
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 (ARS) §25-320. They can also be found at www.supreme.state.az.us. 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.