Phoenix Child Support Lawyers Serving Scottsdale, Chandler, and All of Arizona
In every child custody case there will a determination of child support based upon the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Under our guidelines, support payments are in an amount calculated to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance.
How is the amount of child support determined?
The total support approximates what the parents would have spent on the child if they were living together as one family. Under the guidelines’ shared income model, each parent contributes a proportionate share of his and her income. Typically, the noncustodial parent is ordered to pay a percentage of his or her gross monthly income to the custodial parent for child support.
The amount of support to be paid is calculated by considering many factors, including the parents’ gross incomes, the child’s necessary expenses, extraordinary medical expenses, work-related daycare expenses, and the number of children residing in the home, among other things.
Modifying Child Support
Child support orders can be modified to meet changed needs in the parents’ or child’s life. Either parent can petition the court for a modification. The court will then determine whether there has been a significant and material change in circumstances either concerning the child’s needs or the payor parent’s ability to financially meet his or her obligations.
Circumstances that may warrant a modification to a child support order are:
- Change in either parents’ income
- Change in either parent’s parenting time
- The payor parent has another child
- Disability of the parent or child
- Extraordinary educational expenses
The parents cannot act independently to change the amount of child support. The parties must petition the court which will then determine whether the support order will be modified. Parents who decide to stop paying support or who pay less than required may be held in contempt of court or face other penalties. Even if a parent has lost his or her job and has no income, he or she must go to court to request a modification of the child support order.
In Arizona, child support is presumed to terminate once the child emancipates which is typically on the last day of the month of the child’s 18th birthday. If the child won’t graduate from high school before his or her 18th birthday, then support ends the month of anticipated graduation or on the child’s 19th birthday, whichever occurs first. However, it’s important to note that support does not automatically stop when a child emancipates. The payor parent must petition the court to terminate the child support order.
At the end of the day, support is about caring for the child’s basic needs. Any personal differences between the parents should not affect the financial support that a child is entitled to. For some parents, support ends when the child reaches the age of majority. For other parents, it may not end until the child has graduated from college. And for some parents, the support may continue into their disabled child’s adulthood
Enforcement and Contempt
Parents must meet their child support obligations. Those who do not pay, pay less than required or pay sporadically may be subject to contempt proceedings, fines and even jail time.
Contempt proceedings are one of the most common actions taken against parents who fail to pay child support. During contempt proceedings, the payor parent is charged with failing to comply with a court order. The family court can order relief in a variety of ways. The parent can be ordered to serve an indefinite period in jail until he or she pays the support owed, or a lump sum payment toward the total owed. Another option available to those in Maricopa County is the Accountability Court program, which enforces support arrearages and improves future compliance with orders.
The key to holding a parent in contempt of a child support order is finding that the parent has the ability to pay child support but willfully failed to do so. Parents who do not have the ability to pay the support may have a successful defense to a contempt proceeding if they can prove they genuinely could not pay.
Parents who owe back support may be subject to wage garnishment. The court can order an employer to withhold a certain percentage out of an employee’s paycheck each pay period to meet his or her child support obligations. Additionally, under federal law, employers must report the names of new employees to the state’s new hire directory, which is used to help locate parents who are delinquent in child support payments. There is also a national registry which can be used to help locate parents who move out of state to seek employment. Tax refunds and lottery winnings also can be subject to garnishment.