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Child Support Establishment, Modification & Penalties for Non-Payment

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Establishing a Standard for Child Support

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When a child’s parents separate (i.e no longer live together), the court may issue orders for child support. The purpose of child support is to establish a standard of support for children consistent with their reasonable needs and the parents’ ability to pay.

Child support is ordered to provide children with a similar upbringing to what they might have received if their parents had remained together.

If you are involved in a child support dispute with your child’s other parent, you should reach out to an experienced child support lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta for help.

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Establishing Child Support, Modifications & Penalties

Understanding the Duty to Pay Child Support

In Arizona, both parents are expected to contribute financially to a child’s upbringing under ARS 25-501. This includes contributing to all of the costs involved in raising the child, including basic needs involving housing, transportation, education, clothing, and food.

The court calculates the child support amount based on a variety of factors. In most cases, the parent who spends less time with the child will be ordered to pay support to the other parent.

However, the higher-earning parent may be ordered to pay child support to the other parent when there is a large disparity in income, even when the higher-earning parent has the child at his or her house for more time than the other parent.

At the law firm of Colburn Hintze Maletta, one of our experienced child support attorneys can help you to calculate what you might expect to have to pay or receive. More information about child support is provided below.


Arizona Child Support Guidelines

Arizona has child support Guidelines that are designed to help courts determine the amount of child support to order in each case. These Guidelines help judges calculate the appropriate support amounts to ensure the children’s needs are met.

Arizona’s child support Guidelines are meant to ensure that child support orders are consistent and predictable. Having child support Guidelines also helps parents predict how much they might be ordered to pay or receive.

Courts use child support Guidelines to determine child support amounts regardless of whether the parents were married or unmarried.

Since public policy concerns favor the support in the best interest of children, child support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy and is a priority debt. Spousal maintenance is separate from child support, and a court might issue orders for both types of support in a divorce case involving children.

Parents who are ordered to pay child support must make monthly payments. The state caps the total support obligation based on the parent’s combined income or when there are six or more children. The maximum combined gross monthly income considered under the Guidelines is $20,000 per month.However, the parents can agree to a higher child support amount than what is called for in the Guidelines, or ask the Court for what is called a deviation from the Guidelines  A deviation from the Guidelines may be appropriate if the amount awarded under the Guidelines is unjust or inappropriate based on the circumstances of your particular case.

Child support is calculated based on several factors, including the relative incomes of both parents, the amount of time the children stay with each parent, any extraordinary needs a child might have, whether one parent is providing medical insurance for the child and the total number of children for whom the payor is paying support.

Judges typically order the Guideline child support amount. However, the court is allowed to deviate from the Guidelines if they would result in an unjust outcome under the circumstances.

When courts are determining child support, they expect both of a child’s parents to contribute financially to raising the child. This is known as a shared income approach.


Responsibilities of Paying for Children’s Activities

Extracurricular activities and who will pay for them are generally left up to the parents to decide. These types of expenses can be divided and included in a child support agreement. If there is no agreement, the parent who takes the child to the activities will generally be responsible.

However, if a child has an extraordinary talent, a judge might order the non-custodial parent to pay an additional amount above the basic child support payment to help to pay for the child’s participation.

For example, if a child is training for the Olympics in swimming and has won numerous national awards, the court might order the non-custodial parent to pay a portion of the training costs.

Children’s extracurricular activities can quickly become expensive. If your child is involved in recreational activities that you want the other parent to help pay, you should talk to a lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta about negotiating the inclusion of these activities in a child support agreement.

Duration of Child Support in Arizona – How Long Do You Have to Pay?

When a parent is ordered to pay child support, their obligation continues until the youngest child subject to the order turns age 18.  However, if the youngest child turns age 18 while in highschool, the child support obligation continues until that child graduates or turns age 19, whichever happens sooner.  In other words, while child support does not automatically end at age 18 if a child is in highschool, it usually does not continue past age 19.

If you are the parent who pays child support, you will need to file a petition to terminate the order. In some cases, a child support order may continue until the child completes college. Similarly, the support payments might continue beyond age 18 if the child is disabled.


Child Support Orders for Disabled Children

Under ARS 25-320(E), child support may be ordered to continue into a child’s adulthood when the child becomes disabled while still a minor and will not be capable of supporting himself or herself without help.

In this situation, child support might be ordered to be paid to the child directly or to the parent who provides care for the child as an adult.

Factors Used to Determine Child Support

The factors a court must consider when calculating child support are found in ARS 25-320(D) and include the following:

  • The needs and resources of the child
  • The needs and resources of the child’s custodial parent
  • The relative incomes of both parents
  • The parent with whom the child primarily resides
  • What the child’s life would have been like if the parents had stayed together
  • The child’s education
  • The needs and resources of the non-custodial parent
  • Whether a parent provides health insurance for the child
  • Whether the child has any extraordinary needs
  • The child’s physical and emotional health
  • The amount of time the child spends with each parent

To understand how child support might be calculated in your case, you should meet with an experienced child support attorney from the law firm of Colburn Hintze Maletta.

Establishing Paternity and Child Support

If a child’s parents are unmarried, the paternity of the father will need to be determined before child support can be ordered. There are a few different methods of establishing paternity in Arizona.

If the parents agree, they can sign a statement acknowledging the father’s paternity. The father can also sign the birth certificate to acknowledge his paternity.

If the parents do not agree about paternity, either parent can file a petition for establishing paternity with the court. The court will then order the purported father and the child to submit to DNA testing.

When the results show that the man is the child’s father, the court can then order child support. The father will also then have custody rights and can pursue parenting time and legal decision-making.


Key Factors in Determining Child Support

The Guidelines determine the amount of child support based on the following factors:

  • Parent Time Arrangement (Equal vs. Non-Equal);
  • Parents’ Gross Monthly Income;
  • Other Child Support Obligations of the Parents;
  • Number of Other Children (Not Common to the Parents);
  • Monthly Spousal Maintenance Paid & Received;
  • Monthly Health Insurance Premiums for the Children;
  • Extraordinary Experience for the Children (i.e. recurring and significant medical costs, private school tuition);
  • Monthly Childcare Costs;
  • If non-equal parenting time, the number of days the non-custodial parent has with the Children;

A key factor in child support determinations is the gross monthly income of both parents. Gross income includes all income sources, including employment, retirement accounts, investments, stock options, rents, dividends, and others.

Determining gross monthly income can be challenging if one parent is self-employed, works frequent overtime, or earns regular commission or bonus pay. . An experienced child support lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta can help you to determine the right amount to include for gross monthly income.

Penalties for Failing to Pay Child Support

When a parent fails to pay child support after being ordered to do so by a court, he or she might face serious penalties. Failing to pay child support after a court order may result in contempt of court proceedings. Your attorney can file a motion to ask the court to hold the non-paying parent in contempt of court, which can result in fines, liens, levies, garnishments, and even jail time.

Child support arrearages do not go away and cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Once a judgment is entered on the back child support, the parent will also be assessed interest at a rate of 10% per year. Any judgment must be paid in full, with interest.


Child Support Enforcement in Arizona

Once a parent falls behind in his or her child support payments or refuses to pay, an attorney may file a contempt motion. The court will then determine whether the parent had the ability to pay but still failed to do so to hold him or her in contempt.

Failing to pay child support can result in criminal or civil contempt proceedings. If a parent is charged with criminal contempt, he or she may be sent to jail. If the proceeding is civil, the court might order several different civil remedies, including the following:

  • Wage assignment
  • Bank levy
  • Property lien
  • Seizure of income tax refunds or lottery winnings to repay what is owed


What Happens if a Parent Moves to a Different State?

Every state must give the judgments of courts located in other states full faith and credit. This means that a child support order will follow a parent who moves to a new state. Moving will not allow the parent to avoid a child support order.

If the parent relocates to a new state, he or she must generally file a petition for modifying child support payments in the court that issued the child support order instead of in the new state.  In cases where both parents and the child move to a new state, this may be different.  If you and your ex no longer live in the state that issues your child support order, you should contact the attorney’s at Colburn Hintze Malleta for guidance.

Moving to a new state to try to get out of paying child support is a federal crime. If you move to a new state for a year or longer and fail to pay child support that has been ordered, you can be sentenced to serve from six months up to two years in prison under 18 USC § 228.

How to Modify Child Support Payments in Arizona

If your financial situation has changed, and you are struggling to make your child support payments, you should file a motion to modify your child support order before you amass substantial back child support.

While your motion is pending, continue making your payments as ordered. Under , child support cannot be modified retroactively to a date before the filing of a petition to modify.  However, the Court can retroactively modify child support to the date the petition was filed. In most cases, the ultimate modification will be effective as of the first month following service of the petition to modify. This means that even if it takes months after service for a modification order to be issued, the modification will date back in time to earlier in the proceeding.   Notwithstanding, any child support that accrues before a modification is actually ordered is still enforceable and must be paid when due.

The court may grant a modification upon a showing of a substantial and continuing change in circumstance. For example, if

  • You experienced a substantial drop in income.
  • You lost your job.
  • There has been a change in parenting time.
  • You have been ordered to support another child.
  • You have become disabled and are no longer able to work.

If you need to modify your child support order, you should file a motion as soon as possible. You cannot simply change the amount you pay without a new order. Once you file a petition, the court will determine whether your request is warranted.

Talk to an Experienced Child Support Lawyer

If you need to establish a child support order to help you support your child or need to modify an order that has already been issued, you should talk to an experienced family law attorney at Colburn Hintze Maletta.

Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with our legal team by calling (602) 825-2500 or filling out our secure online contact form.

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