When married or unmarried parents end their relationships and no longer live with each other, a family court might issue child support orders. Child support can be ordered to establish financial support for children so that they can enjoy a similar standard of living to what they would have if their parents had remained together.
Under ARS 25-501, Arizona expects all parents to contribute financially to their children’s upbringing. The costs involved with raising a child include more than simply paying for activities but also include the additional expenses involved with providing housing, food, transportation, medical care, and others.
If you want to establish a child support order or are involved in a dispute with your child’s other parent regarding support, you should seek legal help from De Novo Law.
Stephanie Villalobos, LP, is a highly respected legal paraprofessional with decades of experience dealing with these issues and who is authorized to represent people in many legal matters, including issues regarding child support.
How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help with Child Support Disputes
In Arizona, legal paraprofessionals are licensed non-lawyers who are authorized to provide legal representation to clients without the supervision of attorneys. To become certified as LPs, applicants must have a combination of education and significant experience in the legal field, pass rigorous exams, and pass background checks.
Once a legal paraprofessional is licensed, they are affiliate members of the Arizona State Bar and must complete continuing legal education units each year.
Stephanie Villalobos is a family law legal paraprofessional and is authorized to represent clients in a variety of different family law disputes without the supervision of a child custody lawyer. She has more than 30 years of experience working in family law and can provide representation at a more affordable price than what you might expect to pay to an attorney. Below is some information about child support in Arizona.
Understanding the Child Support Guidelines in Arizona
The Arizona child support guidelines provide courts with a method of determining how much child support should be ordered through calculations that are designed to ensure the child’s needs will be met. The guidelines are in place to ensure the consistency and predictability of child support orders.
The child support guidelines are the same whether or not the child’s parents were unmarried or married. When child support is ordered, it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Parents must pay their ordered child support or risk being held in contempt of court and facing severe sanctions.
If child support is ordered, the payor will have to make monthly payments. The total amount that might have to be paid is capped based on the combined income of the parents or when they share six or more children.
Under the guidelines, the maximum gross income that will be considered per month is $20,000. Parents can ask the court to deviate from the guidelines or agree to a more significant amount. The court might deviate from the guidelines when it determines the recommended amount is inappropriate based on the facts of an individual case.
Several factors are considered when child support is calculated, including the following:
- Each parent’s income
- How much time the child spends with each parent
- The child’s extraordinary needs
- Whether one parent is providing health insurance for the child
- The total number of children the payor is supporting
In most cases, the guideline amount will be ordered by the judge. However, as previously explained, the court can deviate from the guideline amount if doing so is appropriate.
Arizona takes a shared income approach when determining how much child support to order. This approach is based on the idea that both parents are expected to contribute to the costs of raising a child.
How Long Does Child Support in Arizona Last?
The obligation to pay child support generally continues until the youngest child turns 18 or until they graduate from high school if the child turns 18 during their senior year. In that case, the obligation will continue until they turn 19 or graduates, whichever occurs first.
However, a parent might be ordered to pay child support while the child attends college as long as the child meets specific educational requirements. In some cases, child support might continue into adulthood if the child is disabled.
Important Factors Considered in Child Support Calculations
Under the guidelines, the following factors are used to calculate the child support amount:
- The number of overnights each parent has with the child per year
- The combined gross monthly incomes of both parents
- Whether a parent is obligated to pay child support for another child
- The total number of children a parent is obligated to support that they do not share with the other parent
- Monthly health insurance costs for the children
- Any spousal maintenance paid or received by each parent
- Any extraordinary expenses for the children
- Monthly costs of child care
One of the most essential factors the courts use to determine child support is the parents’ gross monthly income. This includes income from all sources, including investments, employment, self-employment, rent, stock options, retirement accounts, dividends, and more. It can be hard to determine a parent’s gross monthly income when the parent frequently works overtime, earns regular bonuses or commissions, or is self-employed.
The experienced legal paraprofessional at De Novo Law can help you to calculate the other parent’s gross monthly income by taking into account all income sources.
Arizona Child Support Modifications
In some cases, a parent’s financial circumstances will have substantially changed since a child support order was issued. If you are ordered to pay child support and have undergone significant changes in your financial circumstances that make it hard for you to make your payments, you should speak to Stephanie Villalobos, LP, about filing a motion to modify your child support order.
In this type of situation, you must act quickly so that you do not accumulate significant back child support debt.
Once you file your motion, you still need to continue paying the child support amount that has been ordered. You cannot modify your child support retroactively to a date that occurred before you filed your petition to modify your child support order. However, the court can modify the support retroactively to the date of your petition.
Any back child support that accrued before the court issues a modified order can be enforced.
The court might grant a modification if you can show that you have suffered a substantial and continuing change in your financial circumstances. Some examples of significant changes in your circumstances might include the following:
- Job loss
- Substantial reduction of income
- Disability preventing you from working
- Parenting time change
- Order to pay support for a different child
If your financial circumstances have undergone one of these major changes, you should talk to De Novo Law for help as soon as possible. You can’t change how much you pay without securing a modification.
Penalties for Failure to Pay Child Support
The courts treat failing to pay child support seriously and can impose severe penalties. If your child’s other parent has failed to pay court-ordered child support, they might be held in contempt of court. You can file a motion with the court asking it to hold the other parent in contempt.
If the court finds that the other parent is in contempt of court, it can order multiple sanctions, including fines, levies, garnishments, liens, and jail time.
A parent who owes back child support cannot discharge the arrearage in bankruptcy. Once the court issues a judgment on back child support, the non-paying parent will also have to pay interest of 10% per year.
Child support arrearage judgments must be paid in full together with interest.
How Child Support Is Enforced in Arizona
If a parent refuses to pay child support or falls behind in their payments, the other parent, through their legal representative, can file a contempt motion. Once the motion for contempt is filed, the court will schedule a hearing to determine whether the parent failed to pay when they could do so.
If the court finds the parent could pay but fails to do so, the court can hold the parent in contempt of court. A parent who has failed to pay child support can face civil or criminal contempt. If the parent is charged criminally with contempt, they might face jail. If the parent faces civil contempt, the court can order the following types of remedies:
- Seizure of lottery winnings or income tax refunds
- Wage assignments
- Property liens
- Bank levies
Get Help with Child Support from De Novo Law
If you want to establish child support or have undergone significant changes to your financial circumstances and need to modify an existing order, you should speak to Stephanie Villalobos, LP at De Novo Law.
Ms. Villalobos can provide experienced legal representation at an affordable cost. Call us today to request a consultation.
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