A parent generally must provide a child with a place to live, clothing, an education, attention, and medical care. In the case of divorce or legal separation, one parent typically will be required to pay child support to the other. This discusses the obligation to pay child support. Information on calculating child support and obtaining legal forms is included at the end of the article.
Child Support Factors
By statute, child support must be the amount “reasonable and necessary for the support of a child, without regard to marital misconduct.” The Arizona Supreme Court has established guidelines for determining the amount of child support, based on the following factors:
The financial resources and needs of the child.
The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent.
The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved.
The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child’s educational needs.
The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.
The medical support plan for the child.
Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy, and other property held in common.
The duration of parenting time and related expenses.
The child support guidelines do not, however, replace the court’s exercise of its discretion in determining the amount to be awarded. The court may deviate from the guidelines in appropriate cases.
The court will presume, in the absence of contrary testimony, that a noncustodial parent is capable of full-time employment at least at the federal adult minimum wage. This presumption does not apply to noncustodial parents who are under the age of 18 and who are attending high school. In awarding child support, the court generally will not attribute income to a parent greater than what would have been earned from full-time employment. Each parent should have the choice of working additional hours through overtime or at a second job without increasing the child support award.
Duration of Support
Child support continues until the child attains the age of majority (18 years). If, however, the child is attending high school when he or she attains the age of majority, support continues for so long as the child is actually attending high school, but then only until the child attains the age of 19 years. In the case of a mentally or physically disabled child, the court may order support to continue past age 18, and to be paid to the custodial parent, guardian, or child.
An order for child support will assign responsibility for providing medical insurance for the child, and will assign responsibility for the payment of his medical costs that are not covered by insurance. If the child is covered under an insurance plan provided by one parent’s employer, the court will order that parent to provide medical insurance for the child, for so long as such coverage is offered through his employment.
Order of Assignment
In every child support case, the court will issue an order of assignment. The order of assignment will be directed to the employer of the parent who has been ordered to pay child support. It will require the employer to withhold from that parent’s salary or wages the child support amount, and to transmit that amount directly to the support payment clearinghouse, for disbursement to the parent who is entitled to receive the support payment, unless the parties agree otherwise.
Exchange of Information
The court will order the parents to exchange financial information, such as tax returns, financial affidavits, and earnings statements, every 24 months. Unless the court orders otherwise, the parents must also exchange their addresses and the names and addresses of their employers when they exchange financial information.
Child support orders may be enforced through the contempt powers of the court. In addition, there are criminal and civil sanctions available to assist in the enforcement of a valid child support order. In the event of non-payment, the court may order that the non-paying parent be put in jail for willfully violating the child support order.
A party seeking to modify the amount of child support must prove that there has been a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances” since the entry of the child support order. A permanent disability or a big job promotion would likely qualify as a substantial and continuing change of circumstances, justifying a change in the amount of child support. If the modified amount of child support varies more than 15% from the existing amount, then that variation is good evidence of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.
Child Support Calculator and Forms
To obtain an estimate of the amount of child support that will be payable in a given case, the reader can go to www.azcourts.gov/familylaw/childsupportcalculator.aspx. This Web site is maintained by the Arizona Supreme Court, and features an interactive PDF document that will calculate a child support amount based on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. A copy of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines may also be obtained from the Supreme Court’s Web site.
An excellent online resource for preparing family court documents and obtaining legal forms is maintained by the Maricopa County Superior Court, at www.ecourt.maricopa.gov/index.asp. This Web site contains interactive interviews that will assist the user in completing the forms necessary to create court documents for legal separation, dissolution, conciliation, and other family law matters. Once completed, the forms can be printed and then taken to the court for filing. Several other counties in Arizona also provide excellent online family law resources.
The child support calculator and the legal forms available on these Web sites are free to the public.
The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Don likes to target shoot, scuba dive, and pilot airplanes. Most recently, he has been working on his golf handicap. Don enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with his wife, twin sons, and golden retriever, Lucy.