Child support represents a legal parent’s obligation to financially support his or her children. Commonly misunderstood, support is intended to ensure that the children are adequately provided for without need for government assistance and to enable the children to enjoy a consistent standard of living at each parent’s home. It is not intended to financially enrich a custodial parent or punish a non-custodial parent.
In Arizona, child support is calculated pursuant to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. This formula provides consistency and uniformity in child support calculation. It primarily considers the parents’ incomes (or earning capacities, when parents are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed), parenting time, and certain expenses incurred for the children. Common examples of these expenses include health insurance premiums, childcare, and educational expenses such as private school tuition. Understanding how the formula works is important because parents are often surprised by how insignificantly a parent’s income influences the calculation.
Child support is established by filing a petition with the family court and may be incorporated into other actions, such as divorce or an action to establish parenting time/legal decision-making. In certain circumstances, a parent may establish child support retroactively, up to three years before the petition is filed, though an award of retroactive support is discretionary. Because parents frequently try to conceal or misrepresent their incomes to manipulate child support, an experienced attorney can be a tremendous advantage.
Once established, child support typically is withheld directly from the owing parent’s wages and distributed via the Clearinghouse to the other parent. A support obligation can be modified whenever either parent can demonstrate substantial and continuing changes that would justify recalculation of support. It cannot be modified retroactively, so it is important to act quickly when circumstances change.
Non-payment of 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. It can, however, result in sanctions, including payment of the other parent’s attorney’s fees and even incarceration. Our attorneys can help you collect unpaid support.