Determining Child Support in Arizona
In Arizona, the trial court determines the amount of child support and how to divide it between the parents. Is the amount based on the adjusted gross earnings of the noncustodial parent? Or the minimum the child requires to survive? In Ortiz v. Rappeport, 820 P.2d 313 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1991) the Arizona Court of Appeals considered the issue.
Mr. Rappeport and Mrs. Ortiz had a child together. Mr. Rappeport admitted paternity and initially provided care for the child. He asked other to quit her job. He provided her an apartment and asked her to care for his mother who lived nearby.
In time, Mrs. Ortiz moved in with her parents and brought a petition to the court for child support. The court determined that Mr. Rappeport had income of $3,242.66 and paid spousal maintenance of $1,200. But it also found that he had other assets that that could produce income at will.
Mr. Ortiz’ income was $1,118.77. The court determined that the appropriate child support amount was $660.00, and that Father should pay $500.00 of this. It also found his contribution to prior child support should be $8,400. Mr. Rappeport appealed the child support amounts. Mother appealed the amount of back support.
Child Support Amount Based on Income of Parents
In arriving at child support due, the court followed child support guidelines adopted by the Arizona Supreme Court. An award should permit a standard of living approximating the one the child would have had if the family remained together.
Father claims that the support amount must be determined by the needs of the child and not the non-custodial parent’s income. He relies on Edgar v. Johnson, 731 P.2d 131 (1986), where the court made a similar statement. However, the Court of Appeals noted that the 1987 child support guidelines supersede any statements made in Edgar. The guidelines require the court to determine the support obligation based on the non-custodial parent’s income.
Father claims that Mother spent only $270 per month for the child at the time of trial. However, she was living with her parents. The Court said that Mary is not required to live with her parents to keep Father’s support payments low.
Including Other Assets
Mr. Rappeport also argues that the trial court deviated from the guidelines in assigning him adjusted gross income of $4,381.23. However, the trial court found that he could produce income at will from his other assets.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Father cannot defeat his obligation by not using his income and other assets that could produce additional income. Father also argued that no evidence supported the trial court’s award of $8,400 for back child support.
Mr. Ortiz’ mother did not charge her to live at her house. But the Court found that Mrs. Ortiz did pay for the child’s care. Mother argues that the amount was insufficient since for 34 months she received no child support from Mr. Rappeport. She contends she should get $500 per month for that time. However, contribution for past expenses under A.R.S. § 12-849(A) is for money actually spent for the support of the child. Support awarded under the guidelines is based on the child’s needs.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling.