Arizona Child Support Guidelines: Purpose, Premise, and Presumption

The Arizona Child Support Guidelines were adopted by the Arizona Supreme Court. The current guidelines became effective January 1, 2005. These guidelines are based on an income shares model, which means each parent contributes a proportionate share to the total support. As we summarize important aspects of the guidelines in this seven part series, we’ll refer to each section by number. If you would like to read the actual guidelines, click here.

SECTION ONE. Purposes of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines

The child support guidelines have four specific purposes:

  1. To establish a standard of support for children consistent with reasonable needs of children and the ability of parents to pay.
  2. To make child support orders consistent for persons in similar circumstances.
  3. To give parents and courts guidance in establishing child support orders and to promote settlements.
  4. To comply with state law (A.R.S. Section 25-320) and federal law (42 USC Section 651 et seq., 45 CFR Section 302.56) and any amendments thereto.”

SECTION TWO. Premises of the Guidelines

– The guidelines apply to all children, whether the parents are married or not married; whether the child is adopted or the parents’ biological child.

– Child support is a priority financial obligation. The fact that a parent may have other debts is not a consideration in determining his or her child support share.

– Spousal maintenance, if any, is determined before child support obligations are established. The maintenance, then, is factored in as part of the recipient parent’s income for child support purposes.

– Every parent has a legal obligation to support his or her natural or adopted child. However, it is important to know that support for step-children is voluntary.

– A custodial parent may, under certain circumstances, be required to pay child support.

– Child support is calculated on a monthly income basis. Adjustments to the support are annualized so that the monthly obligation is consistent over the course of the year.

– Basic child support is capped when the parents’ combined adjusted gross income reaches $20,000 per month. Also, when there are more than six children, the basic child support caps with the sixth child.

SECTION THREE. Presumption Under the Guidelines

In any action involving child support, the amount resulting from application of the guidelines is presumed to be the amount the court shall order. The only exception to that is if the result under the guidelines in a specific case is unjust or inappropriate. In that event, the court may deviate from the guidelines, either by increasing the amount or by decreasing the amount.

SECTION FOUR. Child Support Duration

Child support only lasts for a specific period, typically during the child’s minority, after which time it ends. The first possible termination date would be the 18th birthday of the youngest child included in the order. If the youngest won’t graduate from high school by age 18, then support terminates either upon graduation, or upon the child’s 19th birthday, whichever happens first.