Including Income From a Second Job in Child Support Calculation
In Arizona, the decision of the court to modify parenting time will often result in a modification of child support as well. In this particular appeal, the Arizona Court of Appeals must determine whether the trial court erred in modifying child support without a modification request from either party, as well as other relevant legal factors pertaining to this particular case.
A Brief Summary of the Case: Ballard v. Ballard
Since the couples divorce in 2008, Blair (Mother) and David (Father) had been co-parenting their child. In September 2014, Father left his full time position in Arizona to pursue part time work in Ohio. Citing Father’s relocation, Mother filed a petition to modify existing parenting time and child support. The evidentiary hearing was set for May 2015. The two parties came to an agreement adjusting parenting time outside of court prior to the date of the hearing. The agreement stated that Father would be responsible for 100% of the minor child’s costs to travel to and from Arizona to Ohio for parenting time with Father.
The family court approved the parenting agreement. The only item to be addressed at the evidentiary hearing was the request for modification of child support. After hearing testimony from both Mother and Father, the court ordered Father to pay $232.04 in monthly child support to Mother. Father appealed.
A Single Argument Presented on Appeal: Error in the Calculations
On appeal, Father presents only one argument; that the family court erred in its calculations awarding Mother child support. The child support award was be reviewed to determine if the trial court judge abused his discretion. Father argued the family court erred in using his “historical” income, rather than his current income, to calculate child support. The Arizona Court of Appeals disagreed with Father holding that the family court holds the discretion to take into consideration when calculating a child support obligation whether or not someone is unemployed or working below their full earning potential.
When calculating child support in a case where the non-custodial parent voluntarily reduces his or her income, the court decides whether to use the current income or prior income for the calculations. The court attempts to identify the reasonableness of the decision to reduce the income, whether or not the decision was made in good faith and how the reduction in income affects the child. In this instance, the appeals court finds that the record supports the family court’s decision.
Father also argued against the inclusion of pay from a second job in the child support calculations, but the appeals court again supported the findings of the family court as it is in the trial court’s discretion to do so when the additional income has been historically earned, is expected to continue in the future or does not require an extraordinary work regimen from the parent. The Father’s situation fulfills all three requirements leaving the second income within the court’s discretion to include in the child support calculations.
The appeals court also found no error in the family court’s use of the child support guidelines effective July 2015, the inclusion of Mother’s childcare expenses or not crediting Father for travel expenses. In Conclusion, the Arizona Court of Appeals found the record supported the family court’s decision and affirmed the trial court’s child support order, as well as Mother’s request for attorney’s fees.