What Happens in Child Support Court?

When a legal separation or divorce is taking place, there are so many conflicting bits of information and so many raw feelings that it is tough for a parent to have firm ideas on what happens in the child support court. Yet, there is a desire on the part of every parent to make sure that everything possible is done to support their child or children. Since the laws have changed considerably over the years, what was once true is no longer the case. It is helpful to assure yourself that you have the most up to date information.

Keeping the Best Interest of the Child

Rest assured that the court will act in the best interest of the child or children. There are many different circumstances that families find themselves in; but in general, the court has dealt with many similar situations before. It is essential that the court has accurate information about any and all special considerations, ranging from continuing health bills, needs for daycare, concerns about the capabilities of all the adults who interact with the child and many more. If you are the custodial parent or if you have any matters that affect the best interest of the child, do not be reluctant to voice these concerns.

So to prepare yourself for what will happen in the child support court, you need to focus on this one aspect. Put aside your feelings and possibly resentments, start thinking along the lines of the best interest of your child, and frame every thought and aspiration in this direction. That will assist you in understanding what focus the court will take.


Another guiding principle is that the law operates fairly. So expect that there will be guidelines that give both parents access to the child. And financial support is somewhat regulated. There is even an online calculator for determining the amount of child support required. As long as the accurate information is entered into the calculator, the result is determined by a formula built around what is fair and what the child needs.

Where Can I Obtain More Information?

You are always encouraged to speak with a family law attorney about information regarding child support and the laws that govern this system. The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) is the organization that manages court orders for child support. If you have specific questions, you can request information from this agency.

Their premise is that they work for the best interest of the child. There is information on their official website, but you are encouraged to contact one of the many offices so that you can voice your concerns and receive accurate information.

What Happens in Child Support Court?

The following items will be decided in court about the dissolution of the marriage with a child or children. The range of the decisions includes child support but encompasses much more.

  • Division of both marital property and marital debt
  • Child Custody – Custody can be joint legal custody or sole legal custody. Often there will be joint legal custody, but one parent will be the primary residential parent.
  • A parenting plan – In general, the court favors access of both parents for the child. There may be some restrictions though.
  • Child support – Both parents are required to support their children.
  • Spousal maintenance
  • A name change, if required

How the Child Support Process Starts

When the marriage is a failure, one parent can decide to start divorce proceedings or both parents can agree that a divorce is needed. Legally, one person becomes the petitioner and the other the respondent.

The person filing for divorce, the petitioner, fills out some papers detailing personal information with the court, indicating a divorce is imminent. Then there is a procedure in which these papers are served to the respondent. From that point, both sides will follow a legal path which can lead to court and decisions about child support.

Legal Custody Decisions

In Arizona, legal custody can be sole or joint. Sole legal custody means that one parent has the right to make decisions about the welfare of the child without consulting the other parent. Sole legal custody does not mean that the child does not spend time with the other parent. Legal custody and parenting time are delineated separately.

However, joint custody is much more common in Arizona. In this situation, both parents will discuss and come to some agreement about various aspects impacting the child, such as schooling decisions and medical decisions.

Parenting Plans

Parenting plans are about dividing the time that the child spends with each parent usually during the week. In general, the court favors equal access for both parents. In practicality, this may mean that the child stays with one parent for the week to attend school and then sees the other parent on weekends, for holiday and evenings. In other circumstances where the child can attend the same school, the time during the week can be split evenly.

In the case where the child is very young, often the court deems that it is in the best interest of the child to stay with the mother for the majority of the time. But this time split will become more even with the maturity of the child.

And as the child approaches the teenage years, the wishes of the child may be taken into account about the time spent with both parents. So the parenting plan will change over time in response to the needs of the child.

Financial Concerns with Child Support

As for the financial part of the responsibility, the law is firm that both parents need to support their children. Once the financial situations are clarified, the information is entered into the online calculator and a figure is determined.

In Arizona, there are some cases in which one of the parents does not contribute or falls into arrears for the support payments. The Division of Child Support Services has many strategies to rectify this situation. The parent who is taking care of the child merely needs to consult this agency for support in acquiring the funds needed to raise the child.

Note that child support in Arizona continues until the child is 18 years of age if they have graduated high school or 19 years of age if they are still in high school. Hopefully knowing these facts and avenues of assistance will help parents be prepared for what happens in child support court.


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

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