Child support is one of the most complicated areas of Arizona family law and only an experienced attorney can effectively guide you through all of the rules and regulations that will apply to your individual case. The courts always look to the best interests of the child, but there is also the financial reality of each parent that must be taken into account. You can be on the hook for substantial sums of money if you do not seek the most qualified legal counsel.
Your child support obligations will depend on whether or not you are the non-custodial parent. That is, if you are the parent who does not have physical custody of the child, you will have to pay support to the other parent to support the care of your children.
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When determining how much child support you owe, the courts will look at some of the following factors:
- The age of the children. You may have to pay more to take care of older children because the courts presume that older children require more resources and are more expensive to care for.
- Your income level. If your income level is near or below the poverty line, it is possible to have your child support obligations reduced in order to allow you a basic standard of living.
- Your costs may be offset depending on how much time the children spend with you. For example, if the children spend 3 days per week under your care, the amount you have to pay to the custodial parent who cares for the children the other 4 days of the week may be reduced.
- If you have other children with a person other than the custodial parent, your obligations may be reduced because you are forced to pay support on all of your children. This will vary from case to case and depend on your income level.
- In some cases, children that require particularized care may require you to pay more in child support. For example, a child with a handicap or autism may require special medical care, therapy, supervision and other forms of “extraordinary” support.
This is a very general overview and cannot substitute for the advice and guidance of a qualified family attorney who understands the Arizona Child Support Guidelines and how they are applied in the Superior Courts of the Phoenix and Scottsdale area.
How will the courts in Maricopa County calculate how much child support I owe?
There are child support “models” that are used to calculate child support. The prevailing model is the Income Shares Model although there have been proposed changes to the child support system. In 2011 the Child Outcome Bases Support Model was proposed. The proposed guidelines have not gone into effect yet, but if they eventually do, the transition period will be quite complicated and you will need the advice of an attorney who is well versed in both systems. Child support is already quite technical and the same could be said of any changes to the way support is calculated.
The Income Shares Model makes several presumptions in order to calculate monthly child support obligations. The model assumes that the total amount of child support should, for the most part, provide the same level of spending on each child as would occur if both parents and the children were living together. In order to do this, each parent is required to provide a proportionate amount of financial support to the child.
The family court will take the following steps to calculate child support:
- Determine the duration that child support will have to be paid. There is a big difference between paying child support for a child who is a toddler and one who is 16.
- Calculate the gross income of each parent
- Factor in adjustments to the gross income of each parent for things such as child support payments for children from other relationships, alimony and other forms of “spousal maintenance”
- Determine the adjusted gross income
- Calculate a “basic” child support obligation
- Factor in any special costs such as private school, health insurance, specialized medical care, and other special needs to determine a “total” child support obligation
The State of Arizona provides several child support calculators that you can use to get a general idea of how much you will owe. However, those tools are very general and an attorney with experience in complicated family matters can help you calculate those obligations in light of any recent changes in the law or child support enforcement.
What if I was never married to the other parent?
In most cases, child support orders will be decided when the parents are filing for and carrying out their divorce. However, an increasing number of Arizonans are having children out of wedlock. In these cases, you will be filing for child support independently of any other legal proceedings. Once the application for support has been filed, the process for unmarried applicants is the same as it is for couples who are simultaneously getting divorced.
What if my ex is not making their child support payments?
If you are in a situation where the other parent is not paying their obligated amounts, it is understandable that you will be frustrated and stressed because you will be absorbing all of those costs to care for your children. A family law attorney can help you pursue those funds and pursue a claim with Arizona’s Division of Child Support Enforcement. There are numerous options available to make the other party pay their child support obligations, including:
- Suspension of their driver’s license
- Having their employer withhold funds from their paycheck
- Securing liens against their personal and real property
- Having their arrearage show up in background checks for employment or applications for other benefits
Whether you are receiving child support or paying it, it is in your best interest to have the guidance of an experienced family attorney. Your children deserve nothing less than everything that is owed to them and your attorney should be a passionate advocate for those rights. Call attorney Judd Nemiro for a consultation!