CHILD SUPPORT ATTORNEYS WHO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Child support is a parent’s legal obligation to financially support his or her children. Unfortunately, the system is often manipulated and abused by parents who wants to receive excess support and by parents who want to avoid their obligation. That’s where our top rated child support attorneys can help.
FAST FACTS ABOUT CHILD SUPPORT
Child support is intended to ensure that children are adequately provided for by their parents. It is not intended to enrich a custodial parent or punish a non-custodial parent. The goal is balance each parent’s proportional contribution to the total costs of raising a child.
In Arizona, child support is calculated pursuant to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are not law, but function as a standardized formula to provide uniformity and consistency in child support calculations.
The child support guidelines primarily factor the parents’ respective incomes or earning capacities if parents are unemployed or underemployed, parenting time, and certain expenses like the cost to provide health insurance for the children. Additional expenses like child care, private school tuition, or other extraordinary expenses also may be credited at the family court’s discretion. Understanding how the formula works is important because parents often are surprised by how insignificantly a parent’s income influences the total obligation. Conversely, parenting time can dramatically affect the calculation of child support.
Parents can find the most recent Arizona child support calculator online. This is the actual calculator the family court will use to determine child support unless there are compelling reasons to deviate and order a different amount. Its accuracy depends on the accuracy of its inputs, but it safely can be used to approximate a support obligation in most cases.
Child support usually is established by filing a petition in family court and may be incorporated into other actions, such as divorce or child custody proceedings. Alternatively, child support sometimes may be established through the Department of Economic Security, usually if a parent receives public assistance. When child support is first established, the family court can order support for up to three years (or more in paternity actions upon a showing of good cause) before the petition is filed. This generally is discretionary and because parents frequently try to manipulate child support by concealing or misrepresenting income and expenses, an experienced child support attorney can be a tremendous advantage.
Once established, child support typically is withheld directly from the parent’s paycheck through income withholding order and distributed to the other parent through the Clearinghouse.
Child support can be modified whenever there is a substantial and continuing change to any of the factors that affect its calculation. Ordinarily, this requirement is met whenever changes to any of the factors would result in at least a fifteen percent increase or decrease to the monthly obligation. Child support cannot be modified retroactively so when circumstances change it is important to quickly take the appropriate action.
While income change or job loss may provide a basis to modify child support, it is not guaranteed. For example, if a parent voluntarily terminates employment or otherwise reduces his or her earning capacity, the family court can attribute an income to that parent for the purpose of calculating child support.
Non-payment of child support has severe consequences, though it is important to note that non-payment does not justify a parent to restrict or deny the non-paying parent’s parenting time. Doing this won’t help you collect unpaid child support and actually can damage your child custody case. If the other parent is not paying his or her obligation, your best option may be a petition to enforce. Non-payment can result in financial sanctions (including paying the other parent’s attorney’s fees), suspension of professional licenses and passports, property seizure, and even incarceration. The family court can issue an arrest warrant to incarcerate a parent until a large purge payment is satisfied.