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Child Support

In Arizona, parents have the legal obligation to contribute to the support of their children. The laws of Arizona establish the factors which determine which parent pays the other parent child support and how much child support must be paid.  The relevant factors that are part of the calculation are:  how much parenting time each parent has, the income of each parent, how much each parent pays for child care and/or educational costs for the child, how much a parent pays for health/dental/vision insurance for the child, how many other children the parents have, and how many children each parent has that are not common to the parties in a particular case. Using this information, the family law judge will use a spreadsheet to determine the presumptive amount of child support.  The judge has some discretion to deviate from the amount that results from the guideline calculations. Although the spreadsheet is straightforward, determining the information which is entered into the spread sheet can be complicated.  For parents who are self-employed, it is important that their monthly income fairly represent what they take home for themselves.

Past care and support – A parent who has a child and who has not previously been ordered to pay child support may be ordered to pay past care and support – retroactive child support.  By law, the judge may order past care and support for up to three years before the first case to get an order for child support is brought to court.  For a parent who has not been receiving support from the other parent, it is important to make sure that the award for past care and support is as much as it should be.  A proper award for past care and support requires that the judge be given information about how much parenting time each parent had in the past, what the past income was for each parent, and how much of the relevant child-related expenses each parent paid.  We can help you gather the necessary information and make sure that the other parent discloses all the information that you are entitled to by law.

For a parent who has not been previously ordered to pay child support, the prospect of having past care and support ordered can be daunting – a monthly obligation multiplied by multiple years can result in a large award for past care and support.  For these parents it is important that any support they have informally provided to the other parent be quantified and that they get proper credit for it.

Child Support Modification – When circumstances change for the parents, the factors that determine the calculation of child support change.  A change in income, a change in child-care or education costs, or the addition of a new child to a parent’s family can make a substantial difference in child support.  When your circumstances change, it is important to look at how those changes would change the child support calculation.  The family law judge for your case will not enter a new order modifying your child support unless the change will be plus or minus 15% from the previous order. We can help you determine whether it is time to request a hearing to modify your child support.

Child Support Enforcement – Sometimes a parent ordered to pay child support does not make the monthly payments as ordered.  Arizona law gives substantial power to the judge to ensure that parents make their required child support payments.  Arizona law states that child support is a parent’s highest priority obligation.  If a parent has to choose between paying their child support obligation and a different debt, that parent must pay child support first. If you are not receiving child support as you should be, we can help you enforce the child support order.

Sometimes a parent has every intention of paying support as ordered, but they face substantial challenges.  If that is the case, the worst thing that parent can do is to ignore the problem and hope it will go away.  Failure to pay child support as ordered can result in an arrest warrant being issued by the court.  It can also result in the administrative suspension of your driver’s license and other licenses such as a contracting license. Hiring a lawyer to help you with child support is a good investment.  Arizona judges cannot retroactively modify a child support order.  If a parent loses a job or has other life changes that could be a reason to lower their child support obligation, but they do not come to court and seek a modification of child support, their obligation remains the same.  If they do not pay that obligation, they start accruing child support arrears.  The judge cannot retroactively modify the support amount, and the judge is obligated to enforce whatever arrears accrue.  If you need to modify your child support obligation, it is important to file the necessary pleadings to request a hearing as quickly as possible.  Family law judges have busy calendars, and child support modification hearings can be scheduled several months out.  The modification will relate back to the beginning of the first month after the request to modify child support was filed.

 Out of State Child Support Orders – A child support order from another state can be enforced in Arizona, if the proper procedures are followed.