“One of the most important parts of a legal separation or divorce in Arizona has to do with a couple’s children.”
They have to make decisions about who will be the custodial parent and who will be responsible for legal decision-making. The courts will have to approve of parenting plans, as well as make sure that the child has sufficient financial support. This includes issuing orders for child support from one or both parents.
A child support order can determine which parent must pay child support, the amount of child support, how often payments are to be made; and who receives the payment. The court can also order a wage assignment, which deducts child support directly from a parent’s paycheck.
Calculating Child Support
The court shall determine an amount of child support in accordance with Arizona law and guidelines. This follows the Income Shares Model and approximates the amount that would have been spent on the children if the parents and children were living together. Each parent is responsible for contributing their individual and proportionate share of the total child support.
The basic child support obligations are based on the parents’ combined adjusted income. The court then adds the cost of medical, dental or vision coverage. The court can also add childcare expenses based on the parents’ financial means. In addition, educational expenses may be added in. Adjustments may also be made in the case of special needs or handicapped children.
The parents’ proportional share of child support is based on a number of factors, including income, financial means, parenting time, and the means to maintain at least a minimum standard of living. These calculations may also change depending on the number of children each parent has, and how many children are included in the child support order.
The duration of child support presumptively terminates on the last day of the month of the 18th birthday of the youngest child included in the order. In the event the youngest child will not complete high school by age 18, the presumption changes to the last day of the month of their anticipated graduation or age 19, whichever comes first.
The Arizona Judiciary provides an online child support calculator, to help parents estimate the amount of child support that may be awarded, based on state guidelines. However, the court has final authority to determine the amount of child support.
The calculator utilizes a number of factors, including:
Children’s names and birth;
Gross income of each parent;
Court-ordered child support for other children;
Medical, dental and vision insurance costs for the children;
Extra education expenses;
Extraordinary child expenses;
Parenting time days per year; and
Enforcing Child Support Payments
There are serious consequences for an individual who does not comply with child support orders. This can include financial repercussions as well as criminal actions. When a parent does not comply with a court order to appear in court, the state may issue a child support arrest warrant. The individual may then be arrested, and may be required to pay a specified amount before they will be released from custody.
If an individual is not in compliance, willfully fails to pay child support, and is, at least, six months in arrears, they may also have their driver’s license suspended. To be reinstated, they will have to show that they are in compliance with the court orders, and pay any fees for reinstatement.
It is important for parents to understand that withholding child support is not the way to handle a parenting dispute. Even if the custodial parent is preventing the other parent from seeing their child, non-payment of child support will not help matters, and may lead to jail time. If a parent is not complying with court parenting orders, any disputes should be taken to the court, and not handled through self-help.
Child Support Changes or Modification
Either parent may ask the court to modify a child support order, on a showing of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances. This could be due to an increase in income, a decrease in income, loss of employment, having to care for additional children, or changes in the child’s health and development. If either parent disputes the proposed modification, they can request a hearing on the matter.
Challenging Paternity and Child Support
In Arizona, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he and the mother were married at any time in the ten months leading up to the birth of the child, or within 10 months after the marriage was terminated. The signature on the birth certificate or a witnessed statement signed by both parents can also lead to a presumption of fatherhood. However, before or after the child is born, the purported father may doubt that he is the actual father of the child.
A presumption of paternity can also make the father responsible for the reasonable and necessary support of the child. In order to challenge an order for child support based on paternity, the father will have to first establish that they are not the biological father of the child.
In cases of contested paternity, genetic testing may be conducted on the child, father, and mother. The test will establish a probability of paternity. A probability of 95 percent or higher establishes the legal presumption of paternity. If either the mother or the father of the child requests genetic testing, all parties must submit to testing. If the genetic testing establishes paternity, the court will enter an order naming the biological father of the child as the legal father.
The costs of genetic testing will be advanced by the State of Arizona. However, if the father requesting the paternity test is shown to be the biological father, he may then become responsible for repayment of the costs associated with the genetic tests.
Child Support Representation in Tucson
At West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman, our child support and divorce attorneys are here to help individuals and families throughout Tucson. We will work with you and advise you on your options for child support, enforcing child support, or changing support orders. Our team of lawyers is committed to addressing the individual needs of each of our clients and can assist you with all aspects of a child support.