Parents in Arizona are required to provide ‘reasonable support’ for their minor children. A.R.S. § 25-501(A). If you have a family law case that involves minor children, whether a paternity action, divorce action or a post-decree action to modify parenting time, below are some things you should know about child support.
1. The Guidelines. The Arizona Supreme Court has established the “Arizona Child Support Guidelines.” These Guidelines establish procedures and a formula for how to calculate child support. The Guidelines are reviewed and updated every four years (most recently in 2018) to reflect economic changes in the costs of raising a child and any changes in the law. A copy of the Guidelines and the calculator (also called worksheet) for determining child support can easily be located online.
2. Information Needed to Calculate Child Support. Calculating child support can be very simple if both parties agree to the information to be included in the formula. At a minimum, the following information is needed to calculate child support:
The total number of minor children and their birthdates;
Gross monthly income of Mother;
Gross monthly income of Father;
The monthly amount of spousal maintenance, if any, paid by one parent to the other;
The number of children a parent has from another relationship for whom he or she is the custodial parent, if any;
The monthly amount of child support paid by one of the parents for another child not common to the relationship, if any;
The monthly cost for providing medical/dental/vision insurance for the child(ren) for whom support is being calculated;
The monthly cost for childcare for the child(ren) for whom support is being calculated;
The monthly cost for private educational costs for the child(ren) for whom support is being calculated; and
The parenting time schedule for the minor child(ren) for whom support is being calculated.
The difficulty in calculating support often arises when parties cannot agree to the information needed to complete the worksheet and/or if a party seeks a child support award above an amount that is calculated under the Guidelines.
3. Modifying Child Support. The obligation to provide child support continues in the amount ordered unless it is modified by a subsequent Court Order. Child Support can be changed if there is a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances” as defined under the law. This may include a change in either parent’s incomes, one child is no longer a minor, or a change in the parenting time schedule. You must file a request with the Court to modify child support if you believe there is a basis to recalculate the obligation. If you and the other party are able to reach an agreement to modify child support, you must still submit your agreement to the Court for approval to ensure its effectiveness. When child support is modified, it is presumed to be effective the first day of the first month following notice of the petition for modification being given to the other party.
4. Terminating Child Support. Child support is paid for a child during the child’s minority. The obligation to provide child support terminates when a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later, but not past the age of 19. Support for disabled children can continue past this age only if ordered by the Court. You must file certain documents with the Court to terminate your child support obligation once your child is no longer a minor.