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Most people will take responsibility for their children because they have developed a healthy family bond. In order to maintain fairness, the justice system has developed procedures to deal with a variety of life circumstances. Child support is an area that has been detailed over the years and is a required step in court proceedings in the dissolution of a marriage.

What is Child Maintenance?

Child maintenance is usually termed as child support in the legal system. When parents are not able to remain in a marriage, it is the responsibility of both parents by law to provide financial support to the children. It is a legal court order.

Why is it Important to Make the Payments?

There are penalties for refusing to provide the required support payments and some of these penalties can be significant. If the payment is late from 2 months to 6 months, the penalty is 25% of the total amount. And if it is from 6 months to 12 months, the penalty is 33% of the total. If the arrears are even longer, the penalty is as least as 33% of the total or a figure determined by the court.

If payments owed are greater than $500 or owing for more than 3 months, the Federal Government has the right to remove the amount owing from any refunds of the non-custodial parent. But if payments are in arrears for over 12 months or the balance is more than $250, bank key levy procedures can be put in place.

Another very significant reason is that it is both parents’ responsibility to care for their children, not only financially but physically and emotionally as well.

How Do I Know What to Pay?

In Arizona, there is a child support calculator. Once you have gathered all the pertinent information,  key in the required information and the calculations will be completed for you. The type of information you need is:

  • the number of children being supported,
  • the number of children over 12 (more finances are allocated for older children)
  • the number of nights the child spends with the non-custodial parent and also custodial parent
  • the gross monthly income of non-custodial parent and custodial parent
  • the amount of child support from a previous marriage for either parent
  • the amount of support for alimony, either paid or received from a marriage for either parent
  • the cost of day care for non-custodial parent and custodial parent
  • the health insurance plan cost paid by non-custodial parent and custodial parent

This calculator is used by family law attorney, individuals and any other party interested in calculating the amount. The information entered into the calculator is disclosed during the court process for divorce. It is documented by such items as receipts, invoices, pay checks, etc.

Who Do I Pay?

The funds are not paid to the custodial parent directly. For the first few weeks, the funds are forwarded to the Support Payment Clearinghouse and then these funds reach the custodial parent. Within a month, the funds will be deducted from the wages of the non-custodial parent, as long as the non-custodial parent has a position in which wages are paid. If this is not the case, then the funds continue to be paid to the Support Payment Clearinghouse.

How Long Do I Have to Pay Child Maintenance?

In Arizona, child maintenance payments are made until the child is 18 years old. But if the child is still in high school, the payments continue until the child is 19 years old.

What if Something Happens and I Cannot Pay the Amount?

The amount can change but since the payment is a court order, the non-custodial parent will need to request the change through the court. Circumstances that are considered legitimate are as a result of reduced earnings through a disability, end of employment, significant pay decrease, and changes in the cost of health insurance.

However, this does not allow for a parent to change employment circumstances willingly from a high paying position to a much lower paying position. Bankruptcy does not release you from paying child support, either. Speak with a family law attorney if you need to change the amount that you pay because you are unable to make the payments.

What if I Move Away?

If you move out of state or out of the country, you still need to follow through with your obligation of child support. It is good to make your whereabouts known to the other parents. If you leave the state or the country and fail to inform the other party involved, you could face consequences further down the line. Please contact your attorney, or the other party’s attorney to let them know when you move out of the state.

Child Support Evasion

On the Arizona Department of Economic Security website under Child Support Services, there is a wanted section of parents who are not paying child support along with full details about the amounts owed and requesting contact information. These people are known as child support evaders. You should not evade your child support, as your child requires your support to have the best life possible, and if you do evade you should expect to deal with the consequences.

National Statistics on Child Maintenance

According to a study by the US Census Bureau on Child Support, the average payment for child support was $430 per month in 2012. The percent of child supporter who were male was 85%. Almost 75% of child support payees had an agreement or court order outlining the details of the payment. The amount owed in child support was close to $33 billion dollars in 2013.

Making the Best of the Situation

Now that you know more about the financial side of child support, it is important to consider the physical and emotional aspects. Here are 4 hints to help you with this very stressful time in your family relationships.

  • If possible, talk to your former spouse and try to agree on ways to deal with the children. It is easier and less stressful for everyone to put up a united front.
  • Remember a family is all about the children, so always consider their best interests. Sometimes it is difficult to push those negative emotions aside in order to be the adult in the situation. Put blaming others aside.
  • Keep the routines. Children often respond best when they can predict what will take place. Routines ease stress. Agree upon bedtimes and then stick to them. Consult your partner if you are not sure about the details of the routines.
  • Spending time together with a common interest is much more important than the amount of money you spend. Spending time at the park playing a favorite sport or working on a project together is the way to having firm relationships.