In Arizona, all parents are required to support their children. In the dissolution of marriage, the court will order child support as part of the process. But how much a father or mother pays for child support depends on many factors. And the amount is calculated using the child support calculator.

This calculator was revised in 2015 and is the current method anyone can use to determine the amount of child support required. Of course, the information that is keyed in must be verified as being accurate.

What Information is Needed?

  • Children’s names and birth-dates
  • Income of both parents verified through official documents
  • The amount of any spousal maintenance payments for both parents, if any
  • Any court-ordered support payments required for other children, not of the current marriage
  • Health costs for the children
  • Educational expenses
  • Other unusual expenses for the children
  • Parenting time in days per year, if the time is not equal
  • Any arrears that still need to be paid

You can use the calculator and estimate the amount ahead of time if you can guess the information reasonably accurately. If not, you will need to wait until the information is available to you.

Caution About Payments

It is essential to realize that you do not make any payments directly to the custodial parent as these payments are viewed as gifts and not support payments. You need to wait for the process to be completed, and then you can make the payments to the agency, Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).

The agency keeps a record of the payments and then provides the funds to the custodial parent. In time if you are employed, your employer will be required to deduct the payment from your salary to the agency.

How Long Do Payments Continue?

In Arizona, child support payments continue until the child is 18 or 19 if they are still in high school. Most court orders for payments have the date documented. If the child has any disabilities, the payments can continue and are decided based on the individual circumstances.

Changes in Circumstances

Of course, if there are some changes in your circumstances, the amount of support can be altered through a court order. If the financial circumstances change by 15% then you can go to court to seek a different amount. If the payments are reduced, the difference cannot be applied to arrears. All arrears must be paid in full.

Loss of Employment
If you lose your job, the support payments do not stop. You are expected to find employment to meet your obligations.

Bankruptcy
Your support payments do not stop in this instance either. You are expected to make the support payments above all other debt.

Illness
If you are so ill that you cannot work, you will need to go to court, explain the circumstances, and then receive another court order that will outline your responsibilities.

Remarriage
This is no automatic ground to change the child support payments. If you voluntarily take on more financial responsibility, such as the children of your new marriage, this does not result in a reduction of your obligations to the current child support. If your wife remarries and her husband earns a considerable amount, then you might be able to apply for a court order to reduce your support. These decisions are made on an individual basis.

Change in the Child Custody
If for some reason you are granted custody of your child, then the support amount can be changed

Unexpected Medical or Educational Expenses
Child support payments can be increased to cover the costs of unanticipated medical or educational expenses.

Increased Cost for Special Needs
The costs for the special needs of children can vary greatly. The corresponding support payments will be adjusted to reflect these expenses.

Increased or Decreased Costs for Child Care
The child’s circumstances dictate what the childcare cost is. Young children require constant care, but as they grow older, they are enrolled in school and eventually they are responsible for themselves. The support payments can reflect these changes.

Health Insurance Change
If the status of the health insurance changes, adjustments can be made to the support payments.

Parenting Time Change
If the amount of parenting time changes significantly, you can have the support payment altered to reflect this change.

How Do I Decrease the Child Support Amount?

In Arizona, there are two procedures; Standard Procedure and Simplified Procedure. In the standard procedure, the addressed issues are:  raise or cut in wages or other sources of income, changes to child custody, and unexpected expenses. In the Simplified procedure, the change of 15% difference in earning capacity is assumed to be a substantial and continuing difference that can change the calculation of child support.

If you feel that you qualify for either procedure, you need to file a request for a change. The child support order will be changed if the other parent agrees. But if the other parent is not in agreement then you will need to go to court, and present your arguments and evidence to back up your claim.

However, you need to appreciate that the court has a long established principle which states that both parents must financially support their children. Voluntarily taking on more debt is not an excuse to reduce the child support payments.

In either situation, it is highly recommended that you speak with a family law attorney about decreasing the child support amount.

Dire Circumstances

In some extreme cases, deciding on how much a father needs to pay for child support gets beyond the means of fathers who are in low-income brackets, or work in transient positions. The system has made it very difficult for them to maintain any level of support due to penalties and other restrictions, such as the loss of a license to drive.

There is a solution for cases in which the situation seems hopeless. The DCSS started the Settlement Program to assist such families.

If the family qualifies, the child support that is owed will be paid by the state. And then the father (in most cases the payer is a father) can start again, simply owing the regular monthly child support. With the arrears paid up, all of the other restrictions that may have happened over the years are now removed.

It is hoped that this new lease on life will encourage the fathers to make a determined effort to meet their monthly obligations. It is a win-win situation. The custodial parent receives the funds she needs to raise the children, and a more co-operative environment is restored for the family.

Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.

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