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Overview:

Arizona courts view child support as being the "right of the child," and therefore, is not affected by non-financial factors such as a parent’s unlawful decision to withhold visitation. The amount of child support is determined in accordance with guidelines established by the Arizona Supreme Court, known as the "Arizona Child Support Guidelines." The enactment of child support guidelines was an effort to eliminate arbitrariness in the determination of child support awards that befell courts from time to time. Therefore, out of the myriad of issues in family law proceedings, the calculation of child support allows for the least amount of discretion by a judge. The calculation of child support begins with the determination of the parents’ ability to pay, usually by the actual income reported to the IRS. The total child support amount approximates the amount that would have been spent on the children if the parents and children were living together. Each parent contributes his or her proportionate share of the total child support amount.

 

Factors:

1. Income of both parents
Gross income includes income from any source, and may include income from salaries, wages, commissions, dividends, and employment related reimbursements such as a car allowance. Generally, courts do not attribute greater income than what would have been earned from full-time employment unless that income was historically earned from a regular schedule and is anticipated to continue into the future. Courts do not attribute additional income to a parent if would require an extraordinary work regimen. In determining self-employment income, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation, gross income means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income.

If a parent is unemployed or working below full earning capacity, the court may consider the reasons. If earnings are reduced as a matter of choice and not for reasonable cause, the court may attribute income to a parent up to his or her earning capacity. In accordance with Arizona law, income of at least minimum wage shall be attributed to a parent ordered to pay child support. If income is attributed to the parent receiving child support, appropriate childcare expenses may also be attributed.

2. Number of Children
The child support obligation is determined by income and the number of children common to the parties.

3. Medical and child care expenses
The child support order usually includes a determination of which parent will be responsible for obtaining and paying for medical and dental insurance as well as child care expenses. The parent who incurs these expenses is entitled to an adjustment to their child support obligation to reflect payment of these expenses. In most cases, any uncovered medical expenses will be allocated between the parties in accordance with their proportionate share of income.

4. Parenting time adjustment

The non-custodial parent is entitled to an adjustment to the child support obligation to compensate for the time when the child is in that parent’s care. The child support guidelines determine the amount of this adjustment.

 

Deviation From Child Support Guidelines:

The parties may agree in writing to deviate from the child support guidelines subject to approval by the court. In order to approve any deviation, the court must make findings that the deviation is in the best interests of the child(ren).
Modification of Child Support:

The child support order is an order of the court, and therefore, only the court itself can change this order. If a change in circumstances occurs, the parent seeking a new child support calculation must petition the court for a modification of the award. Examples of a change in circumstances justifying a modification include:
The non-custodial parent has more visitation with the child(ren).
The non-custodial parent has less visitation with the child(ren).
Either parent has a significant increase or decrease in annual income.
A significant increase or decrease in the child(ren)’s expenses occurs.



Termination of Child Support:

A parent’s obligation to pay child support terminates when the child turns 18 and graduates from high school, turns 19, dies or becomes emancipated. The court may order support to continue past the age of majority if the child is severely mentally or physically, the child is unable to live independently, and the disability began before the child reached the age of majority. However, even though a parent’s obligation to pay child support terminates, it may be necessary to file a petition to terminate child support and vacate any wage assignments that are in place.




Enforcement of a Child Support Order:

The child support order is an order of the court. If a non-custodial parent is late in the payment of child support that parent can be found in contempt of court. Non-payment of child support can result in such penalties as jail time and revocation of driver’s license.




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