Arizona family court holds the best interests of children as its highest priority in all family court decisions. Financially, it is the responsibility of both parents to contribute their proportional share toward the care of their children. Almost all parents willingly love and support their children and are happy to provide for their needs. However, despite that willingness during marriage, child support is among the most hotly contentious issues in divorce cases.
Most couples are not at their emotional best during the divorce process when feelings are intensely negative and often hostile. When one parent receives an order compelling them to pay a specified monthly amount, the parent has to pay the amount directly to the other spouse just when they’re at their most acrimonious.
Whether you’re a parent facing divorce in Arizona, or you’re an unmarried parent, each parent needs an experienced child support lawyer in Glendale to represent their interests in all aspects of an Arizona divorce, including child support. At Stewart Law Group in Glendale, we understand that each case is unique. Every client needs a Glendale family law attorney working diligently toward their desired outcome while also preparing for every possible contingency.
Steps for Navigating Child Support in Glendale, Arizona
Child support is an emotionally charged issue, but the state has specific guidelines in place for a structured approach to determining child support in Arizona. The Income Shares Model determines child support payments based on each parent’s proportional share of the amount they’d spend on caring for their children had they remained living together. This model provides a standard that supports the reasonable needs of the children within the parent’s ability to pay. It also keeps child support orders consistent among those in similar situations.
Once divorce becomes inevitable or when parents aren’t married, the steps for navigating Arizona child support guidelines are as follows:
- One parent files a petition either as part of a divorce petition or a child support request for unmarried parents. Unmarried parents require a paternity test to prove biological fatherhood. The state’s Hospital Paternity Program (HPP) provides services to determine paternity
- Arizona’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) opens a case
- The other parent receives a notification in the mail
- The paying parent must respond by the date indicated in the petition
- The state considers the income of both parents, the needs of the children, the amount of parenting time each parent has according to the divorce agreement or court order, and any extenuating circumstances such as a child with a medical condition
- The state determines the amount the higher-earning parent pays the lower-earning parent
Child support serves to minimize disruption to the lives of children and to maintain their current standard of living after a divorce. It also compels non-married biological parents to contribute their proportional share of the amount required to support their children. A child support attorney for Glendale parents seeking child support, or parents facing a child support obligation will defend your rights under Arizona’s child support laws.
How is Child Support Determined?
In the best-case scenario, divorcing or unmarried parents are able to agree on an amount of child support based on the determination using Arizona’s child support calculator. The Arizona Supreme Court reviews and updates these guidelines every 4 years. The court typically orders the approximate amount calculated through this method with specific criteria allowing for a judge to deviate from the calculated amount. The laws mandating each parent’s proportional amount work on the following parameters:
- The needs of each child
- The custodial parent’s financial resources and needs
- The non-custodial parent’s financial resources and needs
- The child’s educational needs
- The child’s medical support/insurance plan
- The child’s accustomed standard of living
- The duration of each parent’s parenting time under their custody schedule
The child support obligation typically ends on the last day of the month the child turns 18 unless the child is still in high school, in which case it continues until the child graduates or reaches age 19.
In certain circumstances, the obligation for child support continues. Examples of extended child support requirements include:
- If the child isn’t able to live independently after the age of majority due to severe mental or physical disability
- If the disability occurred before the child reached the age of 18
Unless compelling testimony shows otherwise, Arizona considers each parent capable of full-time employment to earn at least the state’s minimum wage or higher, which enables them to contribute child support.
What’s Included in an Arizona Child Support Order
A child support order issued by the court tells the parent:
- Which parent must pay the amount specified in the order and which parent receives the child support
- The amount of the child support payment
- How often the paying parent must make the payment
- How to make the payment
The Arizona court instructs the paying parent to issue their first payment through the state’s Support Payment Clearinghouse. This agency records the payment and issues the check to the receiving parent. For paying parents with regular employment, the court places a wage assignment on their employer to make payment obligatory and automatic. A wage assignment makes paying easy by processing the payment directly through the employer who deducts the amount from the parent’s wages.
If the payor changes jobs, it is their responsibility to give their new employer the wage assignment and notify the clerk of court in their jurisdiction of the change within 10 days of the change.
Self-employed parents or those without a regular source of income must pay child support through the support payment clearinghouse.
Penalties for Not Paying Child Support in Arizona
The child support payor bears the obligation to make their child support payment before paying other debts. However, if the payor doesn’t make their court-ordered child support payment, the receiving parent can file an enforcement order against them once they are 30 days in arrears.
If a parent fails to meet their monthly child support obligation, enforcement measures include the following penalties:
- Up to 5 days in jail or 6 months to 1.5 years in prison for those in serious arrears on their child support payments
- Fines up to $1,000
- Revocations of commercial licenses
Child support orders and parenting time are both important parts of a divorce agreement or court decree but they are not otherwise connected. In other words, if a parent denies the other parent access to the children, the paying parent cannot stop making their obligatory child support payments. Instead, they should speak to their Glendale divorce attorney about their rights to enforce their court-ordered custody agreement.
Child support is a critical part of the divorce process. Whether you’re seeking child support or you’re the parent expected to pay support, you shouldn’t go it alone in mediation or in the courtroom on this important issue. A Glendale child support attorney prioritizes your child’s best interest while also protecting a parent’s rights under all aspects of child support laws in Arizona.