How to Enforce a Child Support Order in Arizona?
Petition for Contempt for Not Paying Child Support
Before we talk about how to enforce a child support order in Arizona, let’s first talk about what is included in a child support order. A child support order will include a monthly child support payment one parent will pay the other parent.
However, the order will also include payment of health insurance for the child and payment of uninsured medical expenses for the child.
Child support obligations are 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.
You will have to File a Petition for Contempt. The court will sign an Order to Appear for a contempt hearing. You must serve both the Petition for Contempt and the Order to Appear on the parent who is not paying his or her child support.
You will have to appear at the scheduled contempt hearing. If the parent who is not paying child support does not show up to the hearing, the court can proceed with the hearing and will likely find that parent in contempt of court. The court will also likely issue a warrant for that parent’s arrest.
Regardless whether the other parent shows up for the hearing or not, you will have the burden of proving the other parent was aware of the child support order, had the ability to pay the child support obligation but willfully and intentionally refused to pay his or her child support.
Other Sanctions for Not Paying Child Support
The court may also issue other sanctions such as suspending the parent’s drivers’ license or another professional license. The court, however, is required to include in its order 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.
There is also a criminal statute that may be used in Arizona to enforce a parent’s obligation to pay child support. However, criminal statutes are only prosecuted by a state or county attorney. The Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of State v. Buhman held that the Arizona statute making it a crime to fail to provide “reasonable support” does not violate the Constitution.
Some people may believe they are not obligated to pay their child support payments if the other parent has denied him or her visitation with their children. However, the Arizona Court of Appeals in the case of Campbell v. Campbell held that a refusal to allow visitation did not relieve the other parent of the obligation to pay child support.
The Arizona Supreme Court in the case of Anonymous Wife v. Anonymous Husband ruled that a stepparent who paid for a step child’s necessities could intervene in the child support case to sue the nonpaying parent for reimbursement for the stepparent’s support of the child.
Wage Assignment and Collection to Collect Child Support
A wage assignment is a court order requiring an employer to withhold child support from a parent’s paycheck. The order also orders the same employer to send that money to the Support Clearinghouse. The Support Clearinghouse then sends the child support to the parent who is supposed to receive it.
If someone changes employers, you should send a copy of the wage assignment to his or her new employer to ensure they are withholding the correct amount of child support. If that doesn’t work because the parent who is required to pay child support is self-employed or you do not know where he or she is employed, you can use other collection efforts, such as garnishment and execution.
A garnishment is a legal way of getting back child support. You can garnish bank and investment accounts for the child support you are owed. Garnishment laws are complicated, so you may want to consult with an experienced collection attorney.
Execution is a legal term for using the law to collect money owed to you. You can issue a Writ of Execution which will be enforced by the Sherriff’s department. A Writ of Execution directs law enforcement to seize assets of the parent who has not paid his or her child support. Upon seizing the parent’s assets, an auction is scheduled to sell those assets to pay off the delinquent child support.
Contact our experienced Phoenix and Scottsdale Arizona child support attorneys at (480)305-8300 to discuss your Arizona child support case.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about how to enforce a child support order in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about child support laws 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. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a child support case should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.