As parents, we know that our children’s well-being is dependent on ongoing financial and emotional support. Child support payments (or child support orders), on the other hand, should be based on the changing and present requirements of the family. This is due to the fact that children grow and change, and their need for financial support frequently increases as they become older, rather than decreasing. Furthermore, children’s parents frequently experience significant changes that can affect child support both up and down.
Fortunately, the law anticipates changing family circumstances, and allows some families to modify child support orders in Arizona. If you have an existing child support order, it can be adjusted if there has been a substantial and continuing change of circumstances that qualify for modification and that have occurred since the order was imposed by the Court.
While there are several elements that can warrant a modification of child support request, it is critical to distinguish between a significant change in circumstances and a minor or temporary shift.
Regardless of parenting status, whether sole, joint, or somewhere in between, either parent can request a child support modification provided they can demonstrate a substantial and continuing change of circumstances. Income fluctuations are common reasons for requesting to modify child support orders, but they are not the only reasons for a change. A court may order a child support order modification in Arizona if any of the following conditions are met:
You can also take a look at the child support services modification request FAQ on the Arizona Department of Economic Security page.
There are two procedures available to a parent who seeks a modification to a child support order: the standard procedure and the simplified procedure. (A hearing may still be scheduled with the simplified procedure.) Under the standard modification procedure a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances” allows either parent (or government agency) to seek modification of a support order by filing a request with the family court. This request must be supported by sufficient evidence of such change in circumstances. Under the simplified modification procedure, if current income calculations under the guidelines result in a 15% change from the existing court order, that’s evidence of a “substantial and continuing change.” The procedure requires submission of a Parents Worksheet for Child Support Amount and supporting income documentation. The guidelines allow the simplified modification procedure to be used when medical insurance responsibility needs to be changed or adjusted, again because of a changed circumstance, such as a job change and new insurance coverage. As with the original support order, a new child support order must include the exact amount of the support obligation and the date the revised amount will begin.
Child support orders may cover one or more children. When a child reaches the age of majority, or is otherwise no longer covered as a “child” under the order, then a court-ordered modification is still required before the total amount is reduced. The parent seeking to reduce the support amount based on a recalculation under the guidelines should use the same procedure as with any other request for modification. Remember: When more than one child is under the support order, the amount is not automatically reduced when one of the children turns 18. The court must order a reduction based on a recalculation of the obligations under the guidelines.
If the amount of support is likely to change by at least 15% of the existing order, the simplified approach to modify child support may be the best option. A petition for modification of child support in Arizona must be filed under this procedure, and a hearing is scheduled if the other parent desires it. This process has durations and deadlines that vary depending on circumstances such as where the parents live and whether an objection is submitted.
The standard procedure for requesting a modification of child support in Arizona often leads in the scheduling of a conference or hearing to assess the change in circumstances. Any significant developments that necessitate child support modification will be considered in determining the modified support award in accordance with the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. It’s a good idea to engage with a reputable family law attorney near you in Arizona who can assist you in filing the necessary petitions and meeting the deadlines.
As you can tell, the legal principles and court procedures behind child support order modifications matters can be complex and hard to navigate alone. That’s why we’re here to help when you need to modify a child support order. We can set up a consultation to hear your story and guide you through the process, and where you can modify child support in Arizona. Our offices are conveniently located across the Phoenix Metroplex with a location sure to be near you.