How is Child Support Determined in Arizona?
Divorces that involve children often end with some amount of child support payment being ordered. This can even be true in cases in which the parents share equal parenting time with their children, as child support is modeled on the idea that a child should receive the same financial benefit they would have had if their parents still lived together with combined finances. This is known as the “Income Shares” model of child support that is currently used in Arizona.
Child support payments are designed to cover the standard needs of the child, including food, clothing, school supplies, housing, medical, and extracurricular activities.
The current Arizona child support guidelines as of 2022 are laid out in the 2022 Arizona Child Support Guidelines information packet through the Arizona Judicial Branch.
The factors that go into determining child support amounts, if any, are detailed in A.R.S. 25-320. If child support is ordered, the amount will be “reasonable and necessary” for the support of the child and it will be determined without regard to any marital misconduct.
While specific child support guidelines are re-examined by the supreme court every four years, they are always based upon the following:
- The financial resources and needs of the child.
- The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent.
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the child lived in an intact home with both parents to the extent it is economically feasible considering the resources of each parent and each parent’s need to maintain a home and to provide support for the child when the child is with that parent.
- The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child’s educational needs.
- The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.
- The medical support plan for the child. The plan should include the child’s medical support needs, the availability of medical insurance or services provided by the Arizona health care cost containment system and whether a cash medical support order is necessary.
- Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy, and other property held in common.
- The duration of parenting time and related expenses.
Child support payments are typically made through the child support payment clearinghouse to allow them to be tracked and recorded. Failing to pay child support can result in an array of penalties, including a class 6 felony.
Child support typically ends once a child reaches the age of 18, however the court may order it to continue if the child has a severe mental or physical disability that began before they reached the age of majority that prevents them from living independently and to be self-supporting.
If a child reaches the age of majority while still attending high school or a certified high school equivalency program, support will continue to be provided during the period in which the child is actually attending high school or the equivalency program but only until the child reaches 19 years of age unless the court enters an order pursuant to the child support guideline factors.
Notwithstanding any other law, a parent paying support for a child over the age of majority pursuant to this section is entitled to obtain all records related to the attendance of the child in the high school or equivalency program.
Determining Income for Child Support Purposes
The income used to determine child support comes from any source before deductions or withholdings, including salaries, wages, bonuses, pensions, unemployment benefits, interest, disability benefits, and spousal maintenance. It does not include, among others, non-significant self-employment income, child support sums, child subsidies, public assistance program benefits, and income from stepparents.
The child support income amount is determined monthly, with seasonal or fluctuating income annualized to arrive at the monthly amount. This means individuals who are paid in differing amounts each month, or who are not paid every month of the year, will have their income averaged out per month for any child support income.
This information is input into child support calculators and worksheets, which the court will use to determine the amount of the child support order.
Determining Child Support Obligation
The obligatory child support amount takes many factors into consideration. This includes the number of children involved, the age of the child, adjustment for medical insurance, childcare expenses, education expenses, and the needs of a gifted or special needs child.
Child Support Deviations
A deviation occurs when a child support amount is ordered by the court that is different from the amount determined through the manner listed above. Deviations will occur if:
- The child support guidelines are inappropriate or unjust for the particular case.
- It is in the best interests of the child.
- The court makes written findings regarding the child support guidelines and the child’s best interests in the child support order, minute entry, or child support worksheet.
- The court shows what the order amount would have been without the deviation as well as what the order amount is after deviating.
Deviations may also occur if:
- There is a Rule 69 agreement.
- All parties are aware of what the child support amount would have been if not for the deviated agreement.
- The parties agreed to the terms without coercion or duress.
Cases that involve deviations may include, but are not limited to, those with a significant income disparity between the parents, significant travel expenses related to parenting time, and extraordinary health care expenses for one of the parents.
Rideout Law Group handles cases throughout the state of Arizona, with offices located in Scottsdale and Lake Havasu City. Our attorneys are experienced in handling cases involving child support. For a free consultation, call 480-584-3328.