An Overview of the Obstacles Doctors Face in a Child Support Case in Arizona

We want to discuss what doctors should know about child support in Arizona. As a high wage earner, doctors face some unique issues when addressing the amount of child support you may be ordered to pay and what you can do to impact the way a judge may look at child support in your case.

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Arizona Uses an Income Shares Model to Calculate Child Support

Arizona law requires a judge to consider the amount of money each parent receives as income when calculating child support. This approach to calculating child support is referred to as the Income Shares Model.

The combined income of you and the children’s other spouse will be applied to a chart that will indicate the basic child support amount. Certain other expenses, such as the cost of health insurance for the children, the number of children who are twelve years old or older, and the cost of private school expenses, may then be added to the basic child support amount.

Lastly, you will receive a reduction in the total child support amount based upon the amount of time you spend with your children.

What Doctors Should Know About Child Support in Arizona.
What Doctors Should Know About Child Support In Arizona.

What a Doctor Should Know About a Child Support Deviation in Arizona

The Arizona Child Support Guidelines basic child support chart “caps” out at a combined income of $30,000.00. If the combined income of you and the other parents income exceeds $30,000.00, a parent may ask the court to order a higher basic child support amount than provided by the “cap” in the child support guidelines.

A judge has very broad discretion to order any amount as the basic child support amount he or she believes is in the children’s bests interests.

What a Doctor Should Know About How Income is Calculated for Child Support in Arizona

One of the first things the attorneys will want to do is determine how much income each parents receives every month; which may include other employment benefits a parent receives. So, it is important to understand how a parent’s income is calculated for child support in Arizona.

If you are a W-2 employee, that may be very simple. However, if you receives bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, restricted stock options, or own your own medical practice, calculating your income may be much more involved.

Calculating a Self Employed Physicians Income to Calculate Child Support in Arizona

A review of your financial statements will show what you earn as a salary, what you may have earned as additional net profit over and above your salary, non-cash expenses such as amortization and depreciation, and expenses that the Internal Revenue Service may allow as a permissible business expense but an Arizona Judge does not need to consider as a business expenses for the purpose of calculating your income for child support.

The process of evaluation your financial statements to determine what your income is for the purpose of calculating child support is referred to as “normalizing” your income.

It is important, therefore, that your attorney is intimately aware of how a self-employed persons income is “normalized” to make sure your income is calculated correctly.

What a Doctor Should Know About the Impact of Spousal Maintenance on Child Support

Spousal maintenance has an impact on the calculation of each parents’ income in Arizona. Any spousal maintenance you are paying your spouse will be deducted from your gross income and added to your spouse’s gross income. This changes the percentage of the total child support obligation you will pay to your spouse.

Given the impact spousal maintenance has on child support, you may want to consider discussions about spousal maintenance along with discussions you are having with your spouse regarding child support.

What a Doctor Should Know About Mitigating a Deviation in Child Support in Arizona

A judge does not need to order a deviation in child support simply because your combined gross incomes are more than $30,000.00 a month. There are many occasions when a judge determines the child support calculation using the basic child support amount is more than sufficient to provide for your children’s needs.

What a Doctor Should Know About a Child Support Deviation. in Arizona.
What A Doctor Should Know About A Child Support Deviation In Arizona.

A Judge Will Consider the Children’s Lifestyles During the Marriage to Determine if a Deviation in Child Support is Warranted

Most judges do not want the children’s lives disrupted any more than possible. As a result, the court will listen to evidence of the lifestyle the children enjoyed during the marriage. A more lavish lifestyle supports an upward deviation in child support while a less lavish lifestyle may provide a reason why a child support deviation is not necessary.

A judge will consider the home in which the children lived, the vehicles the parents owned, the vacations the children enjoyed while the parents were together to evaluate the children’s lifestyles and possible need for a child support deviation.

Arguably, the court should not consider the private school expenses since those expenses may already be included in the calculation of child support and should not be counted twice.

Make sure your attorney is sufficiently prepared to present evidence establishing the lifestyle your children had during the marriage in your child support case. We have seen far too many attorneys who focus solely on the income differences of the parents when arguing for a deviation in child support without providing any evidence of the lifestyle the children had during the marriage.

Consider Investing in a 529 College Fund Instead of a Deviation in Child Support

A judge in Arizona does not have the authority to order either parent to contribute to a 529 college fund or to order either parent to pay for the children’s college expenses after a child is 18 years old.

However, the law in Arizona does not prevent a judge from considering a parent’s contribution to a 529 college fund when determining whether a child support deviation is appropriate.

You may consider whether contributing to a 529 college fund and also requesting the other parent to contribute to that same 529 college fund is beneficial in addressing a potential child support deviation in Arizona. Not to mention supporting your children financially through college may be in their long term best interests.

If you decide to invest in a 529 college fund for your children, regardless whether the court finds a child support deviation is appropriate or not, you should carefully outline what you and the other parent agree those funds should be used to pay.

The attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC have many years of experience successfully representing doctors and their spouses in Arizona child support and other family law matters.

Our attorneys have over 100 years combined experience in Arizona child support and family law cases and have received the Us News & World Report distinction of “Best Lawyers – Best Law Firms” for their Arizona divorce practice.

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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