According to Arizona family law, both parents must continue to give the same support for their children as when they were living together as a family. With the disruptive nature of our economy today, parents often endure unexpected changes in their income and lifestyle. This, in turn, affects their ability to support their children after divorce.
Read on to discover how Arizona Child Support Guidelines prioritize children’s wellbeing during and after the divorce process.
Essential Terms in Arizona Child Support
When discussing child support, two key terms always come up in a case. These are custody and parenting time. These determine how the children of divorced parents will continue to receive adequate care until they reach their emancipation age (18 years).
Custody refers to a parent’s right to decide their child’s wellbeing, such as their education, religion, and health care. U.S. law does not make custody decisions on the sex of the parent but on the parent’s ability to provide the right care for their child. Fathers who want to establish custody of their children can also apply for child support services.
A custodial parent lives with their child after the divorce, while the non-custodial parent has the right to visit the child or have their child visit them after the divorce. However, the court can grant sole legal custody or joint legal custody. In sole legal custody, the custodial parent has the final say in decision-making on behalf of their children. Whereas, in joint legal custody, both divorced parents must work together to make the best decisions about their children.
A court can also grant sole physical custody or joint physical custody. The type of physical custody granted by the court determines where the child will live. It is in place to give the child equal contact with both parents after divorce.
Parenting time refers to the opportunity for a child to spend time with the non-custodial parent. It is contact time, visitation, or residential time. Divorced parents should figure out parenting time between them and only involve the court if they cannot reasonably agree on this.
Remember that the monthly child support payments must continue even if the non-custodial parent does not see the child. Child support payments are an unavoidable obligation regardless of visitation.
What Are the Arizona Child Support Guidelines?
The Arizona Child Support Guidelines ensure that children’s living standards stay the same after their parents’ divorce. The Guidelines play the following roles in a divorce and custody case:
- Compliance with state and federal laws concerning divorce, custody, and children’s rights
- Enforcing the legal duty of parents to support all their children, whether natural or adopted and regardless of whether they were born in or out of wedlock
- Prioritize child support over other financial responsibilities, including caring for elderly parents or stepchildren
- Giving courts and divorced parents a clear way forward for the well-being of children
- Determining a reasonable financial plan for child support based on both parents’ income
Note: Arizona child support and spousal maintenance go hand in hand. In most cases, the parent who receives spousal maintenance or alimony also receives child support. If both are necessary in a divorce case, Arizona courts often grant spousal maintenance first. That said, alimony becomes part of the recipient’s gross income, so it is part of the child support calculations for the custodial parent.
How is Gross Income Calculated for Arizona Child Support?
Arizona Child Support Guidelines use the gross income of divorced parents as a basis for child support. According to Arizona law, income includes everything that the parents may receive, including:
- Salaries, bonuses, per diems, and commissions
- Self-employment income
- Capital gains, dividends, and interest on assets
- Prizes and awards
- Pensions and severance pay
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Unemployment benefits
- Spousal maintenance or alimony
- Seasonal income
- Recurring donations or gifts
- Cash value of non-cash benefits or gifts
The terms of the child support agreement are modifiable if either parent loses their job or source of income. The Arizona Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) must be aware of such a change. The DCSS has the right to enforce measures to encourage or force the non-custodial parent to pay the child support. Missing a child support payment for more than 30 days is a criminal offense.
How is Each Parent’s Contribution Calculated for Arizona Child Support?
Divorced parents share the child support payments according to their incomes, number of children, and parenting time. For example, when A and B were a couple, their gross income was $10,000 per month. A’s share was $7,000, while B’s share was $3,000. After divorce, A would contribute 70% of the child support, while B would contribute 30%.
If A is the custodial parent, A will receive the child support from B. Arizona law assumes that the custodial parent spends their share of child support directly from their income, so there is no need for A to give B the child support money.
When it comes to parenting time, equal time is ideal after divorce. But in some cases, one parent may have more visitation hours than the other. Arizona family law considers that the parent with more contact time with the children spends more resources on the children. This means they will require a bigger share of the child support amount to cover routine expenses like kids’ meals and activity fees.
Note: Virtual visitations, also called e-visitations, don’t reduce the amount of child support. Arizona Child Support Guidelines consider virtual visitations not as a substitute but complementary to in-person visitations. Even if the custodial parent relocates and e-visitations become necessary, the supporting parent must still contribute their share of child support.
Which Expenses Appear Under Child Support in Arizona?
Other than basics like a child’s food, clothing, health care, education, and extracurricular expenses, a court can consider additional costs such as:
- Extraordinary child expenses for gifted, handicapped, or special needs children
- Older child adjustment expenses when a child turns 12. This is because children over 12 have higher needs than those under 12 as they transition into adolescence
Arizona Child Support Guidelines always make room for adjustments on a case-by-case basis, so consult your family law attorney to discuss your particular circumstances.
How Many Years Do Parents Pay Child Support in Arizona?
Arizona child support is typically payable until the youngest child of the divorced parents turns 18. This assumes that the child has finished high school by their 18th birthday. If not, child support payments end on the last day of the month of the child’s graduation. Child support also expires if they turn 19 before their graduation.
Remember that Arizona child support does not automatically reduce or terminate once the eldest child emancipates. The divorced parents must officially declare this change and receive any overpayments back. Otherwise, there is no refund if child support payments carry on past the child’s 18th birthday. In some cases, the court may order the child support payments to continue into the child’s adulthood. This only applies if the child has a significant physical or mental disability that prevents them from a healthy, independent life.
An Arizona Family Law Attorney Who Will Advocate For Your Best Interest
Divorced parents need the help of an experienced family lawyer to navigate the numerous challenges of Arizona child support. While this guide summarizes the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, note that updated guidelines will come into effect from January 1, 2022. It is of the utmost importance to hire a family law attorney who has experience with child support, divorce, and spousal maintenance cases to ensure that you get the best, most up-to-date, legal advice and representation possible.
At Bryson Law, your family’s best interest always comes first. Contact us via email or by calling (480) 813-0444 to schedule a consultation, today.