Child Support AZ FAQ


Thank you for visiting our Child Support AZ FAQ Frequently Asked Questions page. Our Scottsdale child support attorneys want to provide you with answers to all of your questions regarding child support and family law.

We strive to provide answers to all of your questions regarding child support and family law. We encourage you to view our Arizona Child Support Laws page, as well as our Family Law Blog to obtain more information about all aspects of child support and family law in Arizona.


How is Child Support Calculated in Arizona?

Child support is calculated utilizing the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Those guidelines are modified periodically, so you need to ensure you are referring to the most current version of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines when calculating child support. There are many Arizona child support calculators available on the Internet, so be sure the calculator you are using is based upon the current version of the child support guidelines.

The court will consider the incomes of the parties, whether one or both parents is supporting another child, the cost of daycare and health insurance for the child and the amount of parenting time each parent is spending with the children. Once established, child support may be modified and enforced.

The Arizona Child Support Guidelines permits a judge to deviate the child support amount either up or down if the court finds it is in the children’s bests interest to do so.  The court, however, is required to state the amount child support would have been absent the deviation and reasons why the deviation is in the children’s best interests.  The Arizona Court of Appeals in the Stein v. Stein case discussed the requirements of deviating from the child support guidelines.

If you are interested as to whether debts impact the establishment, modification of child support, or the enforcement of a child support order by contempt proceeding, you should our summary on the Arizona Court of Appeals decision in Jorgensen v. Jorgensen on the relationship between child support and debt in Arizona.


How Is Income Calculated For Child Support in Arizona?

The Arizona Child Support Guidelines requires the Court to based child support from the gross incomes of the parties. Income can be from a job, but it may also come from additional income earned from investments, and other recurring sources, such as gifts, bonuses, stock options and any other form of compensation.  Even employment benefits such as a military housing allowance, the employer’s cost of providing health insurance to employees and other benefits may be included in a parent’s gross income for the purpose of calculating a parent’s gross income.

You may want to read our article on the decision from the Arizona court of Appeals in the Patterson v. Patterson case for a discussion on the inclusion of employment benefits in a parent’s income for the purpose of calculating child support.  You may also want to read our article on the decision from the Arizona Court of Appeals in the Engel v. Landman case to learn about the treatment of employee stock options when calculating child support in Arizona.

In some cases, but certainly not all cases, the judge may include overtime income as a part of a parent’s gross income for the purpose of establishing or modifying a child support order. You should read our summary of the Arizona Court of Appeals decision in McNutt v. McNutt for more information on whether a court will include overtime when calculating child support in Arizona.

Although interest income from investments may also be included in income, the Arizona Court of Appeals in the Jenkins v. Jenkins case held that an increase in the value of property owned by a parent would not “normally” be included in the gross income of that parent for the purpose of calculating child support.


How Can You Modify A Child Support Order in Arizona?


There are two methods a parent may use in Arizona to modify an existing child support order. Specifically, a parent may use either the standard procedure or the simplified procedure for modifying child support in Arizona.

The “Standard Procedure” may be used if either parent or the state child support agency can demonstrate the existence of a “substantial and continuing” change in circumstances since the last child support order was made. The process begins with the filing of a Petition to modify child support and requires a hearing to be scheduled to recalculate child support.

The “Simplified Procedure” can be used if the amount would increase or decrease by 15% from the existing amount. A change of 15% is assumed to be proof that the change is “substantial and continuing.”

The Simplified Procedure is accomplished by filing a Simplified Petition for Modification of Child Support and results in the issuance of an automatic order modifying child support if the other party fails to file an objection and request for hearing within the time specified in the rules.

Some child support modification occur as an operation of law. Specifically, the Arizona Court of Appeals held in the Heidbreder v. Heidbreder case that a trial court is required as a matter of law to evaluate a modification of child support whenever the court modifies child custody or parenting time orders even if neither party requested a modification to the child support amount.


How to Modify or Enforce a Child Support Order Issued in Another State?

Arizona has adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act that provides, in certain circumstances, a parent to enforce or modify a child support award issued in another state. The various provisions of the Act are too voluminous to summarize, but if your case meets the requirements you may then modify or enforce another state’s child support order in Arizona.

The first step is to determine whether the state that issued the child support order continues to maintain exclusive and continuing authority over the child support order. If it does, Arizona lacks the authority to modify the order but does have the authority to enforce the other state’s order.

If it is determined Arizona has the authority to modify the order, the other state’s order would have to first be “domesticated” in Arizona, pursuant to the requirements of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

Many lawyers have mistakingly relied upon the domestication provisions of the Arizona Domestication of Foreign Judgments Act, which may result in failed attempt to properly domesticate the other state’s child support order; thereby depriving the Arizona court of authority to modify the award. Instead, you must register the other state’s child support order pursuant to Arizona’s version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. For more in depth information regarding domesticating another state’s child support award, please read our synopsis of the Arizona Court of Appeals decision in the Glover case.

Although you must property register another state’s child support order properly under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act to modify a child support order of another state, failing to do so does not prevent a parent from enforcing another state’s child support orders in Arizona as decided by the Arizona court of appeals in the Balazic v. Balazic case.


What Is The Standard Procedure to Modify Child Support in Arizona?

You may use the standard procedure to modify child support by filing a written petition with the court requesting a modification of child support if you are able to allege that a substantial and continuing change in circumstances has occurred since the date the prior child support order was entered by the court.

A substantial and continuing change in circumstances is presumed to exist when the proposed change results in a modification of the child support of at least 15% from the existing child support order. Most child support modifications result from changes to the following factors:

  • A raise or cut in the salary or other regular income of either parent
  • A change in the custody of a child
  • Addition of health insurance or a change in the availability of health insurance coverage
  • Obligation of either parent to support other children
  • Additional unexpected medical or educational expenses
  • Additional expenses for special needs of gifted or handicapped children
  • Additional expenses for court-ordered supervised visitation or supervised exchanges
  • Increased cost in caring for the children

What is Included in an Arizona Child Support Order?

A child support order is an amount the court determines a parent must pay the other parent for the support of the parents’ children. A child support order, however, may also contain orders pertaining to a parent’s payment of health insurance, day care expenses, extraordinary expenses incurred for a gifted or handicapped child, certain educational expenses, and uninsured medical expenses.


What is a Wage Assignment in Arizona?


A Wage Assignment is an order requiring a parent’s employer to deduct that parent’s child support obligation directly from his or her paycheck. The employer then sends that payment to the Arizona Support Payment Clearinghouse. The court is required by law to order support payments be paid through a wage assignment, unless both parties agree otherwise.


How to Enforce a Child Support Order in Arizona?


Child support obligations are typically enforced by a parent filing a petition to hold the non-paying parent in contempt of court. A parent will be held in contempt of court if the parent had knowledge of the court’s support order, had the ability to pay the child support, and willfully and intentionally refused to do so.

Unlike other obligations, a judge is allowed to send a parent to jail if the court finds the parent in contempt of court for not paying his or her child support. The court may also issue other sanctions such as suspending the parents drivers’ license and/or other professional license.

The court, however, is required to order for a lump sum amount, referred to as a purge payment, the parent can pay to secure his or her immediate release from jail. The purge amount must be an amount the parent is capable of paying.


Contact Our Scottsdale Arizona Child Support Attorneys

Contact us today or call us at (480) 305-8300 to schedule your consultation with our Arizona Child Support Attorney regarding child support laws in Arizona or any other Arizona family law matter.