Arizona Child Support Guidelines: The Child Support Order

SECTION FOURTEEN. The Court’s Child Support Order

The court shall order the noncustodial parent to pay child support in an amount equal to his or her proportionate share of the Total Child Support Obligation. The custodial parent shall be presumed to spend his or her share directly on the children.”

SECTION FIFTEEN. The Self Support Reserve Test

After the court has determined its child support order, it conducts the Self Support Reserve Test. This is a financial feasibility test intended to verify the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay the ordered child support, and enjoy at least a minimum standard of living while doing so.

First, the Self Support Reserve Amount of $775 is deducted from the noncustodial parent’s Adjusted Gross Income.

Second, at the court’s discretion, actual payments made by the noncustodial parent for court-ordered arrearages of child support from another relationship and spousal maintenance may also be deducted from the noncustodial parent’s Adjusted Gross Income.

If the Self Support Reserve Test results in an Adjusted Gross Income that is less than the child support order, then the court may reduce the child support amount. Before it will do so, however, the court considers the impact of such a reduction on the custodial parent’s financial resources.

SECTION SIXTEEN. When Child Custody is Divided

When both parents have primary physical custody of different children from their relationship, the guidelines require an adjustment in support obligations. Perhaps the mother has primary physical custody of the two youngest children, for example, while the father has primary physical custody of the oldest child. As you would expect, the greater support obligation is reduced “by the amount of child support owed to that parent by the other parent.”

SECTION SEVENTEEN. Assigning Support to the State of Arizona for Foster Care

If child support has been assigned to the state under A.R.S. § 46-407, the obligation for a parent to pay child support shall not be offset by child support arrearages that may be owed to that parent. Under our welfare statutes, when a child covered by a support order is placed into foster care, the state is assigned the right to receive those support payments. A.R.S. § 46-407 provides in pertinent part that:

  1. The right to support of a child and spouse who receive temporary assistance for needy families… and the right to medical support of a child who receives medical assistance under… the social security act is assigned to this state by operation of law. The support rights are assigned to the state regardless of whether the applicant for assistance has any right to receive the support. The department shall take all steps necessary to enforce the assigned rights to support.
  2. The support rights assigned to the state apply to all children of the household for whom temporary assistance for needy families is granted.
  3. The right to support of a child on whose behalf foster care maintenance payments are made is assigned [to the state]… If the child support order covers more than one child, the department shall determine the amount to be distributed to the state by dividing the court ordered support amount by the number of the children in the court order.

SECTION EIGHTEEN. Parenting Time Travel Expenses

Sometimes parenting time requires travel, and travel expenses can add up quickly. The court may choose to allocate travel expenses in its support order when a parent travels over 100 miles in one direction. A travel expense allocation is essentially a required reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs, which doesn’t change the amount of child support ordered. In considering travel expense allocation, the court will take into consideration the importance of the child’s “continued contact with each parent.

SECTION NINETEEN. Child Support Is Paid in Dollars

Keep in mind that child support is always paid in the form of money. Payments in kind, or things other than money, are not permitted as a substitute for support dollars. For example, buying a child a complete school wardrobe is a gift and is not “support” — the cost of the clothing cannot be deducted from the support amount owed by the parent who purchases the wardrobe.

SECTION TWENTY. Deviating from the Guidelines

There are times when the court believes it must deviate from the amount calculated under the guidelines. These deviations, which may increase or decrease the amount of support ordered, are permitted as follows:

  1. Application of the guidelines is inappropriate or unjust in the particular case.
  2. The court has considered the best interests of the child in determining the amount of a deviation. A deviation that reduces the amount of child support paid is not, by itself, contrary to the best interests of the child.
  3. The court makes written findings regarding 1. and 2. above in the Child Support Order, Minute Entry or Child Support Worksheet.
  4. The court shows what the order would have been without the deviation, and
  5. The court shows what the order is after deviating.

There are also times when the court has discretion to deviate from the results under the guidelines, as when the parents enter into a written agreement. Such agreements may adjust the parents’ respective support obligations.

SECTION TWENTY-ONE. Third-Party Child Caregivers

In a situation where the child is living with an authorized non-parent caregiver, then the support payments will be made by each parent to that third-party caregiver. That caregiver could be a grandparent, for example, who has custody of the child, or perhaps a government agency when the child is in foster care.

SECTION TWENTY-TWO. The Court’s Findings

In its order, the court must include the exact amount of child support and the date it is to start. The court has to make specific findings for the official record. These findings include the following:

  1. Gross Incomes of both parents;
  2. Adjusted Gross Incomes of both parents;
  3. Basic Child Support Obligation;
  4. Total Child Support Obligation;
  5. Custodial parent’s proportional share;
  6. Noncustodial parent’s proportional share; and also
  7. Any income attribution in excess of the minimum wage must be listed and explained.

SECTION TWENTY-THREE. Required Parental Information Exchanges

As part of the support order, the court will require that the parents exchange “tax returns, financial affidavits, and earning statements” with each other every 24 months, along with their current residential addresses and their current employers’ names and addresses.