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Child Support

Parents have a legal duty to support his or her natural or adopted children. The support of other persons, such as stepchildren, is deemed strictly voluntary.

Determining a Parent's Gross Monthly Income

Child support is calculated by using the gross monthly income of each parent. If a parent does not have a consistent monthly income, his gross monthly income will be annualized, or averaged, so that each month's child support payment is an equal amount, instead of the obligation being increased or decreased each month.

Quoting from the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, gross income includes income from any source, and may include, but is not limited to, income from salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, Social Security benefits, workers compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, recurring gifts, prizes and spousal maintenance. Cash value shall be assigned to in-kind or other non-cash benefits. Seasonal or fluctuating income shall be annualized. Income from any source which is not continuing or recurring in nature need not necessarily be deemed gross income for child support purposes.

Gross income does not include sums received as child support or benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs including, but not limited to, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Food Stamps and General Assistance.

Overtime and Second Jobs

Generally, a court will not attribute income to a parent that is greater than what (s)he would have earned from full-time employment. Each parent can work additional hours through overtime or at a second job without increasing his or her child support award. Overtime will be considered if the parent historically worked extra hours and it is anticipated (s)he will continue to do so. However, a court should generally not attribute additional income to a parent if that would require an extraordinary work regimen. Determination of what constitutes a reasonable work regimen depends upon all relevant circumstances including the choice of jobs available within a particular occupation, working hours and working conditions.

Attributing Income to a Parent

If a parent is unemployed or working below full earning capacity, the court will examine the reasons why. If the parent has voluntarily reduced his earnings and not for a reasonable cause, the court is required to balance that parent's decision and benefits there from against the impact the reduction in that parent's share of child support has on the children's best interest.

Under certain circumstances, a court may decline to attribute income to a parent. For example, income may not be attributed to a parent who is physically or mentally disabled nor is a current recipient of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.

Unemployed Parent

In accordance with Arizona Revised Statutes 25-320, income of at least minimum wage shall be attributed to a parent ordered to pay child support. If income is attributed to the parent receiving child support, appropriate childcare expenses may also be attributed. Currently, minimum wage in Arizona is $6.75 an hour, or $1,169 a month.

Income of Other Persons Residing with the Parent is Not Considered

Only income of persons having a legal duty of support shall be treated as income under the guidelines. For example, income of a parent's new spouse is not treated as income of that parent.

Adjusted Gross Income

A parent's gross income will be reduced by the following, if applicable:

  1. Spousal maintenance resulting from this or any other marriage actually being paid. Court-ordered arrearage payments shall not be included as an adjustment to gross income.
  2. The court-ordered amount of child support for children of other relationships, if actually being paid. Court-ordered arrearage payments shall not be included as an adjustment to gross income.
  3. For children not covered by a court order, an amount shall be deducted from the gross income of a parent for children for whom they are the custodial parent.

Parenting Time and Child Support

When the noncustodial parent exercises parenting time, a portion of the costs for children, which are normally expended by the custodial parent, shifts to the noncustodial parent. Accordingly, unless it is apparent that the noncustodial parent will not incur costs for the children during his parenting time, a reduction shall be made to that parent's child support obligation.

For purposes of calculating parenting time days, only the time actually spent with the child is considered; time that the child is in school or childcare is not considered.

How to Count the Number of Parenting Days

  1. Each 24-hour block counts as one day.
  2. To the extent there is a period of less than 24 hours remaining in the block of time the child spent with the noncustodial parent, the following formulations apply.
    • A period of 12 hours or more counts as one day.
    • A period of 6 to 11 hours counts as a half-day.
    • A period of 3 to 5 hours counts as a quarter-day.
    • Periods of less than 3 hours may count as a quarter-day if, during those hours, the noncustodial parent pays for routine expenses of the child, such as meals.

Child Support and Shared Physical Custody

If the time spent with each parent is essentially equal, the expenses for the children are equally shared and adjusted gross incomes of the parents also are essentially equal, no child support shall be paid. If the parents' incomes are not equal, the total child support amount shall be divided equally between the two households and the parent owing the greater amount shall be ordered to pay what is necessary to achieve that equal share in the other parent's household.

Child Support and Divided Custody

When each parent is granted physical custody of at least one of the parties' children, each parent is nevertheless obligated to contribute to the support of all the children. However, the amount of child support to be paid by the parent having the greater child support obligation shall be reduced by the amount of child support owed to that parent by the other parent.

Child Support and Gifts

Once child support has been ordered by a court, the child support is to be paid in money. Gifts of clothing, etc. in lieu of money are not to be offset against the child support order except by court order.

Gifts may be considered child support when a court is calculating the support owed for the months prior to the entry of a formal child support order by a court. However, once a child support order is entered, any payment made directly to the receiving parent is considered a gift and will not satisfy a parent's child support obligation. All child support payments must be sent to the Child Support Clearinghouse Center.

Exchange of Financial Information

A court shall order that every 24 months, financial information such as tax returns, financial affidavits and earning statements is exchanged between the parties. Unless the court has ordered otherwise, at the time the parties exchange financial information, they shall also exchange residential addresses and the names and addresses of their employers.

Emancipation of One Child

If child support for more than one child was ordered and one child becomes emancipated, the duty to support that child stops; however, the child support order is not automatically reduced by that child's share. The paying parent must petition for an amended child support order.

Social Security Benefits and Child Support

Income earned or money received by a child from any source other than court-ordered child support shall not be counted toward either parent's child support obligation.

However, benefits such as Social Security Disability or Insurance, received by a custodial parent on behalf of a child, as a result of contributions made by the parent paying child support shall be credited as follows:

  1. If the amount of the child's benefit for a given month is equal to or greater than the paying parent's child support obligation, then that parent's obligation is satisfied.
  2. Any benefit received by the child for a given month in excess of the child support obligation shall not be treated as an arrearage payment nor as a credit toward future child support payments.
  3. If the amount of the child's benefit for a given month is less than the parent's child support obligation, the parent shall pay the difference unless the court, in its discretion, modifies the child support order to equal the benefits being received at that time.

State and Federal Tax Exemptions

If a parent's child support obligation is at least $1,200 per year, there should be an allocation of the state and federal tax exemptions applicable to the minor children which as closely as possible approximates the percentages of child support being provided by each of the parents.

If it is determined that a party who is otherwise entitled to the dependency exemption will not derive a tax benefit from claiming the dependency exemption the exemption should be allocated to the other party. The allocation of the exemptions is conditioned upon payment by December 31 of the total court-ordered monthly child support obligation for the current calendar year and any 20 court-ordered arrearage payments due during that calendar year for which the exemption is to be claimed.

If these conditions have been met, the custodial parent shall execute the necessary Internal Revenue Service forms to transfer the exemptions. If the noncustodial parent has paid the current child support, but has not paid the court-ordered arrearage payments, the noncustodial parent shall not be entitled to claim the exemption.

How to Calculate Child Support

To calculate your child support obligation, use the online support calculator at http://www.supreme.state.az.us/childsup/.

How to Pay Child Support (Support Payment Clearinghouse)

A court will enter an Order of Assignment that directs your employer to withhold a certain amount of money each month from your paycheck to cover the child support obligation. If the court does not enter an Order of Assignment, or if the Order of Assignment does not go into effect at the time you are ordered to pay child support, you should send your check directly to the Support Payment Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse processes all child support payments and keeps records of payments. Sending your child support payment to the Clearinghouse will help avoid any confusion if a dispute arises over if a parent has paid all the child support ordered by the court.

If your employer is not withholding child support from your pay and you have not been ordered to pay the other parent directly, you should make your check payable to the Support Payment Clearinghouse. You are required to send an additional handling fee of $2.25 per month with each payment.

Support Payment Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 52107
Phoenix, AZ 85072-2107
(800) 888-4151
www.de.state.az.us/dcse/default.asp

The payment will be recorded and forwarded to the receiving spouse. If you are employed, the payments will eventually be processed by Wage Assignment. The support Payment Clearinghouse accepts payments in the form of check, money order, credit card, through Western Union or automatic withdrawal. The Support Payment Clearinghouse sends payments to the recipient spouse by direct deposit into a bank account or the payment can be transferred electronically into an electronic payment card.

Duration of Child Support

Upon entry of an initial or modified child support order, the court may establish a presumptive date for the termination of the current child support obligation. The presumptive termination date shall be the last day of the month of the 18th birthday of the youngest child included in the order unless the court finds that it is projected that the youngest child will not complete high school by age 18. In that event, the presumptive termination date shall be the last day of the month of the anticipated graduation date or age 19, whichever occurs first. It may be necessary to file a petition to terminate child support.

Modification of Child Support

There are two methods for modifying a current child support order: standard and simplified.

Standard Procedure

Pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes 25-327 and 25-503, either parent may ask the court to modify a child support order upon a showing of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.

Simplified Procedure

A parent may request a modification of a child support order if there is a 15% difference between the child support actually being paid and the child support that should be paid. A 15% variation is considered evidence of substantial and continuing change of circumstances.

The simplified procedure may also be used to modify a child support order to change the responsibility to provide medical insurance for a child who is the subject of a child support order. A modification of the medical assignment or responsibility does not need to vary by 15% or more from the existing amount to use the simplified procedure.

If the requested modification is disputed, the parent receiving service must request a hearing within 20 days of service. If service is made outside the state, as provided in Rule 4.2, Rules of Civil Procedure, the parent receiving service must request a hearing within 30 days of service.

Last Updated: 01/23/2015