The law that governs the calculation of child support payments between former spouses is the Arizona Revised Statute §25-320. This statute is used to calculate child support payments via the Child Support Guidelines set up by the Arizona Supreme Court.
A.R.S. §25-320 states:
A. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support, the court may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child, born to or adopted by the parents, to pay an amount reasonable and necessary for support of the child, without regard to marital misconduct.
B. If child support has not been ordered by a child support order and if the court deems child support appropriate, the court shall direct, using a retroactive application of the child support guidelines to the date of filing a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support proceeding, the amount that the parents shall pay for the past support of the child and the manner in which payment shall be paid, taking into account any amount of temporary or voluntary support that has been paid. Retroactive child support is enforceable in any manner provided by law.
C. If the parties lived apart before the date of the filing for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support and if child support has not been ordered by a child support order, the court may order child support retroactively to the date of separation, but not more than three years before the date of the filing for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support. The court must first consider all relevant circumstances, including the conduct or motivation of the parties in that filing and the diligence with which service of process was attempted on the obligor spouse or was frustrated by the obligor spouse. If the court determines that child support is appropriate, the court shall direct, using a retroactive application of the child support guidelines, the amount that the parents must pay for the past support of the child and the manner in which payments must be paid, taking into account any amount of temporary or voluntary support that has been paid.
D. The supreme court shall establish guidelines for determining the amount of child support. The amount resulting from the application of these guidelines is the amount of child support ordered unless a written finding is made, based on criteria approved by the supreme court, that application of the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust in a particular case. The supreme court shall review the guidelines at least once every four years to ensure that their application results in the determination of appropriate child support amounts. The supreme court shall base the guidelines and criteria for deviation from them on all relevant factors, considered together and weighed in conjunction with each other, including:
- 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 if the child lived in an intact home with both parents to the extent it is economically feasible considering the resources of each parent and each parent’s need to maintain a home and to provide support for the child when the child is with that parent.
- 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. The plan should include the child’s medical support needs, the availability of medical insurance or services provided by the Arizona health care cost containment system and whether a cash medical support order is necessary.
- 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.
E. Even if a child is over the age of majority when a petition is filed or at the time of the final decree, the court may order support to continue past the age of majority if all of the following are true:
- The court has considered the factors prescribed in subsection D of this section.
- The child has severe mental or physical disabilities as demonstrated by the fact that the child is unable to live independently and be self-supporting.
- The child’s disability began before the child reached the age of majority.
F. If a child reaches the age of majority while the child is attending high school or a certified high school equivalency program, support shall continue to be provided during the period in which the child is actually attending high school or the equivalency program but only until the child reaches nineteen years of age unless the court enters an order pursuant to subsection E of this section. Notwithstanding any other law, a parent paying support for a child over the age of majority pursuant to this section is entitled to obtain all records related to the attendance of the child in the high school or equivalency program.
G. If a personal check for support payments and handling fees is rightfully dishonored by the payor bank or other drawee, the person obligated to pay support shall make any subsequent support payments and handling fees only by cash, money order, cashier’s check, traveler’s check or certified check. If a person required to pay support other than by personal check demonstrates full and timely payment for twenty-four consecutive months, that person may pay support by personal check if these payments are for the full amount, are timely tendered and are not rightfully dishonored by the payor bank or other drawee.
H. Subsection G of this section does not apply to payments made by means of an assignment.
I. If after reasonable efforts to locate the obligee the clerk or support payment clearinghouse is unable to deliver payments for the period prescribed in section 25-503 due to the failure of the person to whom the support has been ordered to be paid to notify the clerk or support payment clearinghouse of a change in address, the clerk or support payment clearinghouse shall not deliver further payments and shall return the payments to the obligor consistent with the requirements of section 25-503.
J. An order for child support shall assign responsibility for providing medical insurance for the child who is the subject of the support order to one of the parents and shall assign responsibility for the payment of any medical costs of the child that are not covered by insurance according to the child support guidelines. Each parent shall provide information to the court regarding the availability of medical insurance for the child that is accessible and available at a reasonable cost. In title IV-D cases, the parent responsible pursuant to court order for providing medical insurance for the child shall notify the child support enforcement agency in the department of economic security if medical insurance has been obtained or if the child is no longer covered under an insurance plan.
K. If the court finds that neither parent has the ability to obtain medical insurance for the child that is accessible and available at a reasonable cost, the court shall:
- In a title IV-D case, in accordance with established title IV-D criteria, establish a reasonable monthly cash medical support order to be paid by the obligor. If medical assistance is being provided to a child under title XIX of the social security act, cash medical support is assigned to the state pursuant to section 46-407. On verification that the obligor has obtained private insurance, the cash medical support order terminates by operation of law on the first day of the month after the policy’s effective date or on the date the court, or the department in a title IV-D case, is notified that insurance has been obtained, whichever is later. If the private insurance terminates, the cash medical support order automatically resumes by operation of law on the first day of the month following the termination date of the policy.
- Order one parent to provide medical insurance when it becomes accessible and available at a reasonable cost.
- Order that medical costs in excess of the cash medical support amount shall be paid by each parent according to the percentage assigned for payment of uninsured costs.
L. In a title IV-D case, if the court orders the noncustodial parent to obtain medical insurance the court shall also set an alternative cash medical support order to be paid by that parent if the child is not covered under an insurance plan within ninety days after entry of the order or if the child is no longer covered by insurance. The court shall not order the custodial parent to pay cash medical support.
M. In title IV-D cases the superior court shall accept for filing any documents that are received through electronic transmission if the electronically reproduced document states that the copy used for the electronic transmission was certified before it was electronically transmitted.
N. The court shall presume, in the absence of contrary testimony, that a parent is capable of full-time employment at least at the applicable state or federal adult minimum wage, whichever is higher. This presumption does not apply to noncustodial parents who are under eighteen years of age and who are attending high school.
O. An order for support shall provide for an assignment pursuant to sections 25-504 and 25-323.
P. Each licensing board or agency that issues professional, recreational or occupational licenses or certificates shall record on the application the social security number of the applicant and shall enter this information in its database in order to aid the department of economic security in locating parents or their assets or to enforce child support orders. This subsection does not apply to a license that is issued pursuant to title 17 and that is not issued by an automated drawing system. If a licensing board or agency allows an applicant to use a number other than the social security number on the face of the license or certificate while the licensing board or agency keeps the social security number on file, the licensing board or agency shall advise an applicant of this fact.
Q. The factors prescribed pursuant to subsection D of this section are stated for direction to the supreme court. Except pursuant to subsection E of this section and sections 25-501 and 25-809, the superior court shall not consider the factors when making child support orders, independent of the child support guidelines.
R. For the purposes of this section:
- “Accessible” means that insurance is available in the geographic region where the child resides.
- “Child support guidelines” means the child support guidelines that are adopted by the state supreme court pursuant to 42 United States Code sections 651 through 669B.
- “Date of separation” means the date the married parents ceased to cohabit.
- “Reasonable cost” means an amount that does not exceed the higher of five per cent of the gross income of the obligated parent or an income-based numeric standard that is prescribed in the child support guidelines.
- “Support” has the same meaning prescribed in section 25-500.
- “Support payments” means the amount of money ordered by the court to be paid for the support of the minor child or children.
Why choose Sheinson Law for your divorce representation:
Essentially child support is used to help provide all the basics that a child needs to succeed in modern life. Child support payments are determined by either a settlement agreed upon by the parents or by a court after a trial.
While it is possible for the parents to come to an agreement on the child support payments, it is the court’s responsibility to approve the agreement by determining whether it is in the best interest of the child/children.
In Arizona, all child support payments are required by law until your child/children reach the age of eighteen or graduate from high school. However, if the child/children do not graduate high school then the child support payments cut off at 19 years old.
The court is required to take both parents’ current financial situations into account when determining child support payments. A court is not allowed to levy yearly increasing payments on the assumption that the child support paying parent will receive raises on their salary or have large increases in business.
Any child support order handed down by a court will provide provisions that assign responsibility for paying the costs associated with health insurance, unforeseen medical expenses and daycare for the children if the other parent works.
While provisions are made for health insurance and the other costs stated above these do not extend to any cosmetic medical procedures, including braces.
The majority of child support payments are made through the Arizona Child Support Clearinghouse to ensure timely payment and keep an official record of the payments. However, it is possible to agree to direct payments between the two parents.
Courts treat the timeliness and full payment of child support extremely serious so child support should be paid on time.
Child Support Guidelines
The Arizona State Child Support Guidelines are used to calculate the total child support payment. This takes into account the respective income of the parents, health insurance costs for children, any costs for daycare or other childcare programs, how much time the children spend with the non custodial parent and if it applies any costs associated with private school or extraordinary education. Child support cases are solved using a mathematical formula that takes all of the previously stated factors into the calculation.
However, courts cannot force a parent to pay child support for any extracurricular activities such as sports or dance. Generally, extracurricular activity expenses are considered separately, and the parties reach agreements on how to divide those expenses.
These Child Support Guidelines are required to be updated every four years by the Arizona State Supreme Court. These updates allow for the guidelines to stay current. Whenever the guidelines are changed the utmost priority of the court is the wellbeing of the children of divorce and looking out for their interests.
Although the financial wellbeing of the parents should be considered, it is important for the court that the children have the same quality of life that they would have had if their parents were not separated or divorced. The court also considers the emotional and physical wellbeing of the child such in determining the payments for education and healthcare.
All of these factors are used to determine how much total monetary support the child needs between the two parents. This total is then divided up amongst the two parents proportionally so that it accurately reflects the total income of each parent.
If the children reside with one parent the majority of the time, the court assumes that the custodial parent is paying their portion of the child’s needs by taking care of the child most of the time. This will be reflected in the amount of child support assigned to the non-custodial parent. If the children reside with each parent an equal amount of time, that will also be reflected in the child support calculation.
Calculating the Parents’ Incomes
The court generally only considers the incomes of the actual biological parents in calculating child support. It is unlikely that the court will factor in incomes of grand-parents, extended family members, or any new spouses of either parent.
Both parents are required to provide official documentation of their financial state, wages, cost of the children’s health insurance and possibly daycare. If a parent is self-employed or an entrepreneur then significantly more research and investigation will be done to determine the true income of that parent.
Modification of Child Support in Arizona
It is possible to modify the amount of child support if either of the parents can provide evidence of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. For instance, if a parent paying child support is laid off of their job and their income drops drastically, it is possible to modify the child support order.
Courts consider these modifications whenever there is more than a 15% change in the child support guidelines calculation. If a substantial and continuing change is proven, the court will modify the order to more accurately reflect the family’s updated situation.
There are two methods to modify a child support order – the standard procedure and the simplified procedure.
In standard procedure modification, you are required to file an official request to the court to modify your child support order. The claim will then go to the court where both parents can testify and provide evidence for their case and the court will determine whether a modification is necessary.
As stated above the other method of child support order modification is a simplified modification. This method only requires you to file a petition for the modification of child support order.
The court will require you to fill out a worksheet that provides your estimation of what the child support should be with the documentation for your claim. Then you will serve the other parent with the official court documents and they will have time to look over and consider your petition.
If the other parent does not file an objection within the given amount of time, then the court will modify your child support order without you or your former spouse ever having to appear in court. If an objection is filed then the court will schedule a trial to determine whether a modification is necessary.
This simplified procedure can be significantly more painless than an extended court trial but does not happen often because of parental disagreements.
Back Child Support
It’s sad to say it but this is not a perfect world and in some cases, parents either fall behind or outright refuse to pay their child support. This leaves children having a drastic decrease in their quality of life and standard of living.
Luckily there are legal remedies for the enforcement of child support payments which allow for the custodial parent to get the money their children are owed.
We here at Sheinson Law, want you to have all of the information you need to effectively enforce your child support order and have provided below some of the ways that child support may be enforced.
If a parent is refusing to pay their rightfully owed child support payments then that parent can be held in contempt of court by a judge.
When a parent is held in contempt of court for not paying their child support it is possible for the parent to be placed in jail if their back child support is not paid within a given amount of time. If a parent is forced to enact enforcement of child support payment they may also have their attorney or legal representation fees paid by the offending parent.
Foreign Child Support Orders
Often people from other states may move to Arizona with child support orders levied in another state. If you are looking to modify a child support order from another state then it is absolutely vital that you domesticate your order to the state of Arizona so that you can modify your order in the state of Arizona.
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act lays out all of the necessary steps to correctly register your out of state child support order within the state of Arizona. While it is possible to enforce your child support order in Arizona if it is not registered here we still recommend that your order is properly registered in this state.
However, it is absolutely not possible to modify an out of state child support order in the state of Arizona if it is not correctly registered with the state of Arizona.
If you are facing any difficulties in the area of child support in the state of Arizona, we promise to protect both you and your children’s interests with our many years of experience fighting for our client’s child support rights.
We know that you care deeply for your children and we at Sheinson Law would be honored to defend your children’s best interests at the negotiation table or in the courtroom.
Call us at (480) 365-0340 so that you can schedule a free phone consultation with one of our knowledgeable, experienced and battle-tested attorneys to discuss the legal background and facts of your case.