Who Qualifies for Child Support Modification in Arizona?

Who Qualifies for Child Support Modification in Arizona?

Arizona Family Court makes all decisions in the best interests of children, including decisions on child support. The court upholds the belief that all parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children regardless of their marital status. Child support orders for divorced or non-married parents are binding, with significant enforcement measures and penalties for those who fail to pay and fall into arrears; however, the court understands that sometimes a parent’s circumstances change substantially, or a child’s needs change. Instead of falling behind on child support payments, seeking a post-judgment modification of child support orders resolves the problem legally without fines or penalties.

Before you petition the court for a modification of existing child support orders, it’s important to understand the court’s requirements, and when a judge will consider changing an order.

Child support modifications.

Under What Circumstances Will a Judge Modify a Child Support Order?

Either the paying parent or the child-support-receiving parent may request a modification of their child-support order if they’ve experienced a change in their circumstances. The court doesn’t change a child support modification order without evidence of a significant, long-term change in circumstances. According to A.R.S. § 25-327(C):

“The provisions of any decree respecting maintenance or support may be modified or terminated only on a showing of changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing except as to any amount that may have accrued as an arrearage…” 

In other words, a parent receiving child support should not request a modification every time their spouse gets a cost-of-living raise in their pay. Instead, the court requires proof of a substantial change in the paying parent’s ability to pay or a considerable change in the child’s needs. You might qualify for a modification of your child support under the following circumstances:

A Substantial, Long-Term Change in Circumstances

A judge may approve a modification request if a paying parent’s ability to pay decreases substantially, or at least by 15%. Job loss, decreased pay, or lowered work hours with a significant drop in pay are all reasons a judge might approve a child support modification in Arizona.

A Substantial Change in a Child’s Needs

When a child develops a serious medical condition requiring ongoing care, needs exceptional education with additional costs, or childcare needs increase, a judge may approve a request based on the increased financial needs of the child.

A Parent Begins Providing Health Insurance For Their Children

Under Arizona’s child support guidelines listed in   A.R.S. § 25-327(C):

“The addition of health insurance coverage as defined in section 25-531 or a change in the availability of health insurance coverage may constitute a continuing and substantial change in circumstance.”

Providing health insurance coverage is a significant contribution to the expense of raising children and may constitute a modification of an existing order if the addition of health coverage occurs sometime after the original order.

The Original Order Was Based on Inaccurate Information

If information comes to light that one spouse didn’t fully disclose their income or assets and the order was based on fraudulent or inaccurate information, a judge will consider a modification of their original order.

There Is a Change in the Parenting Time Schedule

Child support orders are based on the income of both parents and the number of overnight custody days each parent has with the children on their parenting time schedule. If the custody agreement or order changes, the judge will also modify the child support order to reflect the change.

One Parent Has Another Child

Remarriage does not impact child support since a parent’s new spouse does not have a financial obligation toward their spouse’s children from a previous marriage; however, if a paying spouse has another child to support from the new relationship, the judge may consider modifying an existing child support order so the parent can also provide for their new child.

The Child Becomes Emancipated

If a child begins working, marries, or joins the military, the court considers them emancipated, or that they’ve become an adult and no longer require child support for their maintenance.

A Parent Moves to Another State

When one parent relocates to another state, there may be a significant change in that parent’s cost of living as well as changes in their custody or parenting time schedule. The judge will consider the circumstances before approving or denying a modification request.

A Parent Becomes Incarcerated

When a parent goes to prison they are no longer able to earn the income used to calculate child support in their previous order. They also lose their share of child custody. Both are reasons a judge approves a modification request.

Can a Parent Request a Modification of Child Support If They are Behind on Payments?

When a child support-paying parent falls behind on their child support order due to a significant and ongoing change in their ability to pay, they should not stop paying child support, but instead, speak to a Phoenix child support attorney about filing a request for a child support order modification before they become deeply in arrears. Post-judgment child support modifications do not apply to arrearages. In other words, if a paying parent’s child support order is lowered due to a change in circumstances, it isn’t retroactive and does not reduce the amount they owe in back child support if they’re in arrears. 

What If the Parent Who Pays Child Support Dies?

If a paying parent dies, Arizona requires child support from their estate to satisfy their child support obligation, if the parent leaves assets behind. This is described under  A.R.S. § 25-327(C):

“Unless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided in the decree, provisions for the support of a minor child are not terminated by the death of a parent obligated to support the child. If a parent obligated to pay support dies, the amount of future support may be modified, revoked or commuted to a lump sum payment to the extent just and appropriate in the circumstances…”

Not all states require child support from a deceased parent’s estate, but Arizona considers the obligation to support a child extends to assets a deceased parent leaves behind.