Is a Child Support Order Void if it Does Not Mention Past Due Child Support?
In Arizona, the trial court is charged with determining the amount of child support due going forward as well as past child support that is due. Is a child support order void if it does not mention past due child support? In Lopez v. Barraza, 723 P. 2d 109 (1986) the Arizona Court of Appeals considered the issue.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Child Support Division began giving support to a child born to Mrs. Lopez.
In October, 1984, Mrs. Lopez and Mr. Lopez attended a meeting in the case worker’s office. In the meeting, the case worker prepared a formal paternity complaint, a summons and acceptance of service, and a form of judgment. Both parties signed the papers.
The only matters they put into the judgment were paternity and future child support payments. Mr. Lopez agreed to pay future child support in the sum of $150 per month. The judgment didn’t contain language about back support due or the medical expenses of the child.
The following year, Mrs. Lopez asked the court for contributions to back support. She also asked for medical costs she incurred to give birth to the child. The trial court denied her request. Mrs. Lopez appealed.
Statutory Language Permissive or Mandatory
Mrs. Lopez claims that A.R.S. § 12-849 requires the court to make an award for past care and support of the child. It also allows the court to award expenses for the birth.
Mr. Lopez argues that the judgment below was void since it did not contain either of these. The Court of Appeals ruled that section 12-849(A) and (B) are discretionary. It found that the statute gives the trial court the power to order such awards but does not make them mandatory.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling.