Child Custody Lawyer Phoenix AZ
Scottsdale Arizona Child Support Attorneys | Hildebrand Law, PC
Thank you for visiting our Arizona child support laws 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 | Frequently Asked Questions page, as well as our Family Law Blog, to obtain more information about all aspects of family law.
Scottsdale Arizona Child Support Attorneys | What You Need to Know
The Arizona Legislature has codified in Arizona Revised Statute section 46-401 the public policy in Arizona that it is the responsibility of parents to support their children to avoid dependence on public welfare assistance programs.
The Arizona Supreme Court issued a decision in the Matter of Appeal of Cochise County holding that the duty of a parent to support his or her child extends to providing a place for the child to live, providing food, clothing and medical care, and an education.
Child support is either agreed upon by the parties or determined by the court after a trial. The Arizona Supreme Court in the Gotthelf v. Gotthelf case held that, although the parties are free to reach an agreement concerning the payment of child support, the judge is not required to accept that agreement if the court believes the agreement is contrary to the best interests of the children.
Generally, child support is required to be paid until the child turns eighteen years of age unless the child has not yet graduated high school in which case child support will continue until the earlier of the child graduating high school or the child reaching the age of nineteen; whichever occurred first.
An exception exists for a child who is severely disabled in which case child support will continue until such time the disability is eliminated. However, the Arizona Supreme Court in the Ferrer v. Ferrer case held that the trial court should wait until the appropriate time to evaluate whether the child’s disability requires the continuation of child support beyond the child’s emancipation, which suggests judge’s should not make that determination when the child is younger and should, instead, wait until the child is approaching his or her emancipation.
The ruling in the Ferrer case was based upon the Arizona Supreme Court’s objection to trial court’s speculating whether the child would or would not recover from his or her disability years prior to the child’s actual emancipation.
The calculation of child support must be based upon the parties’ current financial situations. The Arizona Court of Appeals in the Brevick v. Brevick case held a judge may not enter a child support order that automatically increases periodically based upon the assumption the parent paying the child support will continue to receive annual raises in his or her salary.
All child support orders are required to include provision assigning the responsibility for providing and paying for health insurance, uninsured medical expenses, and day care costs. However, the Arizona Court of Appeals in the Smith v. Smith case held that the responsibility for the payment of medical expenses for a child do not extend to cosmetic medical expenses, such as cosmetic dental procedures.
You should read our summary of an important Arizona Court of Appeals decision in the Jorgensen v. Jorgensen case regarding whether there is a relationship between child support and debt in Arizona.
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-320 governs the obligation of a parent to pay child support. That statute required the creation of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines to be created and passed by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Arizona Child Support Guidelines
A child support calculation using the Guidelines includes a determination of each parent’s gross income, cost of health insurance for the child(ren) only, day care costs, parenting time days with the non-custodial parent, and extra-ordinary education costs such as private school tuition.
Arizona does not have authority to add the cost of the child’s participation in extracurricular expenses when calculating child support, such as fees and expenses related to sports, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities. The only exception to this general rule is if the child demonstrates an extraordinary talent in the particular activity.
The Arizona Child Support Guidelines are essentially a mathematical formula. Those Guidelines, correspondingly, are not directly influenced by a parent’s actual living expenses; although a parent’s necessary living expenses were allegedly taken into consideration when the drafters of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines set limits on the basic child support amounts included in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.
The Supreme Court is required to review and, if necessary, revise the child support guidelines every four years. In creating and/or changing the child support guidelines, the Arizona Supreme Court must include, among other things, considerations of the needs of the parties’ child, the resources and needs of the parents, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents lived with their child in an intact household but given the reality the parents have their own living expenses as a result of living apart, the physical and emotional condition of the child, as well as the child’s educational needs, the provision of health insurance for the child, the duration of parenting time and related expenses incurred by the non-custodial parent for the child during that parenting time.
The Arizona Child Support Guidelines intend to determine the total amount of support the child needs on a monthly basis. The Guidelines then divide that total figure between the parents in proportion to their respective incomes.
The primary custodial parent is presumed to be providing his or her share of his or her amount of that total by virtue of the child residing in his or her home. The non-custodial parent’s share is the amount he or she will be ordered to pay to the custodial parent. The Guidelines max out at a total combined income of $20,000.00 per month.
In cases in which the parents combined incomes are greater than $20,000.00 per month, a party may ask for an upward deviation in child support, but that parent has the burden of proving an upward deviation is in the child’s best interests.
The Arizona Court of Appeals in the Nash v. Nash case held that a trial court cannot refuse to consider evidence supporting an upward deviation in child support above the $20,000.00 combined income maximum simply because the custodial parent has sufficient wealth to provide for the additional needs of the child. In that case, professional Phoenix Suns point guard, Steve Nash, earned significantly more than the $20,000.00 per month income cap of the Guidelines.
When calculating child support, only the incomes of the actual biological parents are included in the calculation. The Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of In Re Marriage of Pacific held that the court shall not attribute to a parent half of the income of their new spouse when calculating child support.
Parties are required to testify and provide financial documents establishing, for example, their incomes, cost of providing health insurance for the child(ren), and day care costs. Although parties are required to exchange Affidavits of Financial Information wherein they list their income, expenses, and other costs associated with child support, the Court of Appeals in the Kells v. Kells case held that such Affidavits of Financial Information have no evidentiary value making it imperative that parties present actual financial documents to the court at an Arizona child support trial.
If one of the parents is self employed, a determination will need to be made to establish that parent’s true income. A review of the business tax returns provides a starting point for evaluating that parent’s income, but a person should never simply rely on a business income tax return.
Instead, an analysis needs to be made of the business’ financial statements, such as the business’ Profit and Loss statement and Balance Sheet statement. The documents may reveal additional income, such as personal expenses that are being paid by the business but being deducted as a business expense, pursuant to the Arizona Court of Appeals case of Pearson v. Pearson, or the purchase of additional equipment that has been 100% deducted pursuant to a section 179 income tax deduction, but that asset has an extended service life.
Also, the court, pursuant to the Arizona Court of Appeals case of Baker v. Baker, may decrease a self employed parent’s reported income because of business losses or depreciation in certain circumstances.
Some parents choose to work overtime or even two different jobs to make ends meet after a divorce. The Arizona Court of Appeals held in the McNutt v. McNutt case that a parents income should be based upon their income from their primary job to avoid a parent continually facing increases in support payment due to the more they work to pay their own living expenses. Although McNutt dealt with alimony, the reasoning may be persuasive in a similar child support case.
A court is required to at least attribute an income of minimum wage based upon full time employment, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-320, if a parent is not employed. The court, however, is permitted to attribute to a parent an income based upon their actual earning ability if the court concludes that parent is intentionally unemployed. However, an exception to this rule may apply.
Specifically, the Arizona Supreme Court in the case of Little v. Little set forth a number of factors the court should consider when determining whether to reduce a parent’s income for the purpose of child support when a parent voluntarily quits their job to attend school. The balancing test is the best interests of the children in receiving current support versus the increased income that parent will have available to support the child after completing his or her education.
Since Arizona child support calculations are based upon a mathematical formula, child support issues are typically resolved without the need for a trial. There are, however, some special circumstances that make the calculation of child support in Arizona more complicated, such as when one of the parents is self employed, in which a business evaluation may be necessary.
It is also important to understand a court may deviate from the child support amount calculated using the Arizona Child Support Guidelines as discussed in the Arizona Court of Appeals case in the Stein v. Stein decision.
It is important to be represented by an Arizona child support attorney who knows how to review and evaluate business financial statements, bank account records, and other financial information to accurately determine a self employed parties’ income. Hildebrand Law, PC provides practical and effective solutions for all of our clients in their AZ child support cases. If you are facing child support issues in Arizona, you deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing your most precious assets are being guarded by a committed team who focus only upon Arizona child support and related family law cases.
Contact Our Scottsdale Arizona Child Support Attorneys
Contact us today at (480) 305-8300 to schedule your consultation with our Scottsdale Arizona child support attorneys regarding child support or any other family law matter.