Child Support Laws in Arizona
We want to provide helpful information about Arizona child support laws.
Do you have questions regarding how long you have to pay child support in Arizona, how much child support you may be ordered to pay, or whether you can change the amount of child support previously ordered in your case?
We want to provide you with comprehensive information answering all of these questions and more.
Let’s start with the basics.
Arizona Child Support Statutes
We want to provide information to you regarding Arizona child support laws to assist you in your Arizona child support case.
The Arizona State Legislature set forth the Arizona child support laws in Arizona Revises Statutes Sections 25-320 and Section 25-500 through 25-685.
If the child support was ordered by another state, additional child support laws exist in Arizona in Arizona Revised Statute Sections 25-1201 through 25-1362 (referred to as the Uniform Instate Family Support Act). Let’s break down the Arizona child support laws for child support orders issued in Arizona.
Domestic Child Support Orders in Arizona
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-320 is the foundation of the Arizona child support laws.
That statute provides that child support can be ordered in any action for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or action upon child support between parents, married or unmarried.
The Arizona Child Support Guidelines
That statute also mandated the Arizona Supreme Court to create the Arizona Child Support Guidelines for the calculation of child support in Arizona.
You should be aware the Arizona Supreme Court reviews those Guidelines and makes changes to them periodically, so you must ensure you are using the most current version of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines to obtain an accurate calculation of child support. The term “support” in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-500(9) is as follows:
Child Support in Arizona Includes Medical Insurance Coverage, Payment of Uninsured Medical Expenses for a Child, Educational Costs, and Extraordinary Expenses for a Gifted Child
The provision of maintenance or subsistence and includes medical insurance coverage, or cash medical support, and uncovered medical costs for the child, arrearages, interest on arrearages, past support, interest on past support and reimbursement for expended public assistance.
In a title IV-D case, the support includes spousal maintenance that is included in the same order that directs child support.
Expenses That Are Not Included in Child Support in Arizona
You should note that support is not defined to include all the expenses you pay for your children.
For example, it is not defined to include such things as extracurricular activity costs for your children and other similar expenses.
However, the Arizona Child Support Guidelines can include the cost of educational costs for private school and costs associated with the activities of a gifted child.
Arizona Child Support Laws on Enforcing Child Support
A court may issue a wage assignment, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-504, which is an order requiring the parent’s employer to take the child support out of his or her employee’s paycheck to be sent to the Arizona Child Support Clearinghouse.
The Clearinghouse will then that child support to the parent who is owed the child support.
That same statute allows a parent to file a request for the issues of an ex parte wage assignment if the parent owing the support changes employment.
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-511 makes the knowing and willing failure to pay child support a class 6 felony in the State of Arizona.
Arizona Revised Statute 25-516 allows a person who is owed more than two months of child support payments to obtain a lien against all of the property owned by the parent who is delinquent in child support payments.
That lien can be secured by filing a notice of lien with the Arizona county records office.
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-681 allows the court to issue a child support arrest warrant if a contempt of court hearing is set for failing to pay child support with an Order to Appear requiring the parent to appear in court and he or she fails to do so.
Arizona Revised Statute section 25-501(A) provides that every parent has a legal obligation to provide financial support for his or her children.
Arizona Revised Statute section 1-215(19) provides that a person is considered a child until the child is emancipated, which is defined as being eighteen years of age.
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-502(B) requires that the original petition to establish child support be filed in the county where the child primarily resides.
A parent may seek to modify child support whenever there is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances, such as a change in income or health insurance, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-503(E).
That same statute provides that the modification of child support shall be effective on the first day following the month the petition to modify child support has been filed unless the judge finds good cause to make the modification effective at a later date.
The statute does not permit the court to modify the child support to a date preceding the date the petition to modify was filed.
Arizona law provides that child support end upon the child’s marriage, adoption, death, or the child reaching the age of eighteen, unless the child is in high school when he or she turns eighteen in which case child support shall continue until the child graduates high school or equivalent program but not beyond the child reaching the age of nineteen, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-503(O).
However, child support can continue for a child who has reached the age of eighteen if the child has a severe disability that precludes that child from supporting himself or herself, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-320(E).
Arizona Child Support Arrearages
An unpaid child support payment automatically becomes a judgment as a matter of law, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-503(I).
The Arizona legislature also provided in the statute that there are no statute of limitations on the collection of unpaid child support except that a parent who waits ten years to attempt to collect child support must prove his or her delay in attempting to collect the child support was not unreasonable, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Sections 25-503(J)&(K).
A parent owed support may file an affidavit with the court stating the amount of past-due child support and a request for the court to issue a formal written judgment for past-due child support.
The parent must serve the other parent with the affidavit and request.
The parent obligated to pay child support has twenty days to file an objection to the affidavit and request and request a hearing be set to determine the amount of child support owed.
If no response is filed, the court will issue a formal written judgment for past-due child support.
Wage Assignment for the Payment of Support
An Arizona judge is required to issue a Wage Assignment, which is similar but not the same as a garnishment, ordering an employer to deduct child support directly from the parent’s paycheck, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-504.
The same statute allows a party who is owed child support and/or spousal maintenance to file an ex parte order of assignment for current child support, other support, spousal maintenance, spousal maintenance arrears, and interest accrued on unpaid support.
The person whose employer has been served with an ex parte order of assignment may request a hearing on the order, but there are very limited objections that may be used to support such an objection.
Arizona child support laws provide that the person obligated to pay child support is required, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-504(K), to notify the clerk of the court or the Support Payment Clearinghouse of any change to his or her residential address or change of employment within ten days of any changes of address or employment. Failure to do so permits the court to hold that person in contempt for not doing so.
A person may file a motion to terminate an order of assignment within ninety days of the ending date for the support award, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-504(M) and must serve that notice on the other parent.
The other parent may file a request for hearing within twenty days if they reside in Arizona or thirty days if they reside outside Arizona objecting to the termination of the order of assignment in which case the court will schedule a hearing.
If no objection is filed, the court will automatically order the termination of the wage assignment effective on the date the support order is scheduled to end.
It is important to know what wage assignments for support take precedence over all other civil garnishments that may have been served upon a parent’s employer, pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-504(P).
The statute also prohibits an employer from firing an employee because Wage Assignment has been served upon the employer.
An employer who does so is subject to being held in contempt of court, paying damages, and paying the attorney fees of the affected parties.
Calculating Child Support in Arizona
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-320 governs the calculation of child support in Arizona.
That law refers to the Child Support Guidelines to calculate support.
The Arizona Legislature has codified in Arizona Revised Statute section 46-401 the public policy 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 through child support payments extends to providing a place for the child to live, providing food, clothing and medical care, and an education.
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 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.
Child support ends when the child turns eighteen years of age unless the child has not yet graduated high school in which support in Arizona will continue until the earlier of the child graduating high school or the child reaches the age of nineteen; whichever occurred first.
An exception exists for a child who is severely disabled in which case financial support will continue until such time the disability ends.
However, the Arizona Supreme Court in the Ferrer v. Ferrer case held that the trial court should wait until the right moment to evaluate whether the child’s disability requires the continuation of support beyond the child’s emancipation.
This case suggests judges 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 held a trial court should not speculate whether the child would or would not recover from his or her disability years before the child’s actual emancipation.
Financial support for a child is ordered based on the parties’ current financial situations.
The Arizona Court of Appeals in the Brevick v. Brevick case held a judge may not enter a support order that automatically increases periodically based on 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 provisions assigning the responsibility for providing and paying for health insurance, uninsured medical expenses, and daycare 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 does not extend to cosmetic medical expenses, such as cosmetic dental procedures.
Child support is paid through the Arizona Support payment clearinghouse via a wage assignment in most cases; although some judges will allow a parent to pay their child support obligation directly to the other parent.
If a parent has received public assistance for a child, the state will issue an Atlas number to that person’s case.
The paying payment will need to add that Atlas number to any payments made through the support payment clearinghouse.
The courts take child support obligations very seriously, so it is important that you remain current on your child support obligation.
Child Support Guidelines
Child support is calculated using what is referred to as the Child Support Guidelines and requires a determination of each parent’s gross income, the cost of health insurance for the child(ren) only, daycare costs, parenting time days with the noncustodial parent, and extraordinary education costs such as private school tuition.
Under Arizona child support laws, Arizona does not have the authority to add the cost of the child’s participation in extracurricular expenses when calculating the appropriate amount of support, such as fees and expenditures 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. This child support calculator is primarily a mathematical formula.
The Guidelines, correspondingly, are not directly influenced by a parent’s actual living expenses or their debts; although a parent’s necessary living expenses were allegedly taken into consideration when the drafters of the Guidelines set limits on the basic support amounts included in the Guidelines.
The Supreme Court is required to review and, if necessary, revise the Guidelines every four years.
In creating or changing the Guidelines, the Arizona Supreme Court must include, among other things, considerations of the needs of the parties’ child.
The court should consider the resources and needs of the parents.
The court should consider the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents lived with their child in an intact household.
The court shall also consider 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 noncustodial parent for the child during that parenting time.
The 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 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.
Deviation in Child Support
In cases in which the parents combined earnings 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 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.
Calculating the Parents’ Incomes
The revenues 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 wages, the cost of providing health insurance for the child(ren), and daycare costs.
Parties are required to exchange Affidavits of Financial Information wherein they list their income, expenses, and other expenses 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 a 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 just rely on a business income tax return.
Instead, an analysis needs to occur in 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 deducted as a business expense, according to the Arizona Court of Appeals case of Pearson v. Pearson.
The records may show the purchase of additional equipment that has been 100% deducted under a section 179 income tax deduction, but that asset has an extended service life.
Also, the court, according 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 is based upon their revenue from their primary job to avoid a parent continually facing increases in support payments due to the more they work to pay their 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, according 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 tribunal 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 many factors the court should consider when determining whether to reduce a parent’s income when calculating 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 child support calculations are based on a mathematical formula, child support issues are usually resolved without the need for a trial. There are, however, some special circumstances that make calculating child support more complicated, such as when one of the parents is self-employed, in which a business evaluation may be necessary.
It is important to hire an Arizona family law 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 efficient solutions for all of our clients in their child support cases.
Modification of Child Support in Arizona
A parent may seek a modification of child support any time he or she can demonstrate there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances to modify child support.
Many factors could result in a modification of child support. A parent’s income may have changed substantially.
The cost of providing health insurance may have changed.
Arizona case law has held that a substantial and continuing change in circumstances exists anytime there is at least a 15% change in the child support calculation regardless if no other factors have changed.
There are two procedures you may use to modify child support in Arizona.
You can use the standard procedure to modify child support which requires you to file a motion to modify child support.
The court will schedule a hearing to allow both parents to submit testimony and exhibits after which time the court will issue a ruling on the requested modification.
Alternatively, you can use the simplified method to modify child support.
The simplified method simply requires you to file a Simplified Petition to Modify Child Support.
You will need to submit a child support worksheet demonstrating how much the child support should be.
You must serve the other parent with these documents.
If he or she fails to file an objection to the Simplified Petition the court will sign an order modifying the child support without you needing to appear in court.
If the other parent files an objection, the court will schedule a trial on the requested modification of child support.
Back Child Support
It is an unfortunate reality that some parents fall behind in their child support payments. Failing or refusing to pay child support can result in a child not receiving the full financial support he or she should be receiving.
Child support enforcement can be addressed in several different ways.
It is important that you know how to enforce child support in Arizona if you are not receiving child support payments.
A parent can be held in contempt of court for not timely making child support payments.
If held in contempt, a parent can actually be put in jail until he or she pays an amount of back child support ordered by the court.
A parent enforcing child support will also likely be awarded his or her attorney fees incurred in enforcement a child support obligation.
Foreign Child Support Orders
Some people move to Arizona with child support orders issued in another state.
It is important that you domesticate a child support order from another state in Arizona if you wish to modify or enforce the child support order issued in another state.
Arizona has adopted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. That Act sets out the requirements to properly register child support in Arizona.
Although Arizona case law has held that you can enforce a child support order from another state without registering it in Arizona, it is still a good idea to register the child support in Arizona.
Case law has held that you cannot modify a child support order from another state in Arizona unless it is properly registered in this state.
If you have questions about child support in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona child support and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in child support and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your child support or family law case around today.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote the information on this page about Arizona child support laws to ensure everyone has access to information about the divorce process in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award.