Modification of Child Support
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-327, Arizona child support orders can be modified whenever a substantial and continuing change occurs that affects the calculation of support. Sometimes it is obvious when child support should be modified, sometimes it is not. In another article, we explained when parents can modify child support and you can contact our child support attorneys for a free consultation if you have any questions. The purpose of this article is to review and explain the different court forms available to help parents modify child support without an attorney.
What you will need: your case number, a copy of your current child support order, and a proposed child support worksheet.
Pursuant to Rule 91.1(b), there are two procedures available to modify child support. We will start with the simplified procedure because, as its name implies, it is simpler and usually preferable for parents who qualify. The biggest advantage for simplified procedure is that it does not require any court hearing unless the other parent contests the modification.
The simplified procedure can be used when child support should change — increase or decrease — by at least fifteen percent (15%). To calculate this, you divide the amount you want child support to change by the current child support order and multiply it by 100.
Using real numbers to illustrate this, we will assume the current child support amount is $500 and one parent wishes to change child support to $600. The change would be $100, so we would take the change and divide it by the current child support amount ($100 / $500). The resulting decimal (0.2) then would be multiplied by 100 to convert it to the percentage. This proposed change is 20% so it would qualify for simplified procedure.
The simplified procedure also can be used to assign or change responsibility for providing medical insurance for the children subject to the child support order.
The simplified procedure is available statewide, but each county may use its own form with minor differences. Because our family law practice concentrates primarily in Maricopa County, we will use its form, available below.
Maricopa County Form
Petition to Modify Child Support “Simplified Process”
The first eleven pages of the packet contain instructions that you should read carefully, especially if you are filing without an attorney. Procedural mistakes can cause your petition to be dismissed and since child support cannot be modified retroactively before the date the petition is filed, this can cause you to lose months without change to the child support obligation. Unrepresented litigants also can be sanctioned for making procedural mistakes and ordered to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees. If you have any questions about any family court forms, please contact us for a free consultation with an experienced family lawyer.
Caption / Case Info
Every document filed in family court should have the filing party’s information in the top left, including your name, address (unless it is protected), telephone number, and email address. If you are filing without an attorney, you will check the box to indicate “Representing Self, without a Lawyer.”
In the middle of the page, you will put the parties’ names and the case number. Please note that the Petitioner/Party A line refers to the party who filed the original petition in your case, not necessarily the party who is filing this current petition. It is a little bit confusing, but the easiest way to make sure you complete this section correctly is to look at documents previously filed in your case or look up your case on the online docket.
Next to Section No. 1, you will check the box to indicate whether you are Party A or Party B (based on whether you are the original petitioner or respondent). In the first blank you will provide the date your current child support order was issued. In the second blank, you will provide the name of the court. If the order was entered in Arizona, this blank is looking for “Superior Court.” The final blank asks you to provide the county where the current order was entered.
Note: If your current child support order was entered in a different jurisdiction, you may not be able to modify child support without additional steps. Orders from other jurisdictions must be properly registered under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (called “UIFSA”) before they can be modified.
Section No. 2 requires you to indicate which parent is responsible for providing insurance for the children and which type(s) of insurance. Select all of the boxes that apply.
Section No. 3 requires you to select the box to indicate which parent is currently ordered to provide child support, the amount of support, the interval of payments (monthly for most Arizona child support orders), and the date child support is required to be paid each interval. If no child support was ordered in the previous proceeding, you can skip the check boxes and write in $0 per month.
Section No. 4 requires you to attach a child support worksheet. For this you will use the Arizona child support calculator and enter all of the necessary inputs. Do not forget to credit parenting time any of the non-income inputs that are applicable to your case. In the blank space you will provide the worksheet’s obligation found at the bottom next to “Child Support Obligation to be paid.”
Section No. 5 requires you to enter the difference between the current child support order and the amount requested in blank space (a), the current child support amount in blank space (b), and the resulting percentage in blank space (c).
Section No. 6 asks you to check the appropriate box to indicate whether either parent is receiving services from Department of Economic Security or its Division of Child Support Enforcement.
Section No. 7 requires more information about your current orders, specifically whether any other amounts are withheld from the parent who is obligated to pay child support.
Section A under this heading asks you to provide the amount you want child support to be changed to and check the box to indicate which parent should pay support.
Section B asks you to check the box for which parent you want to be ordered to provide insurance. Remember that the parent who provides insurance must be credited for those amounts on the child support worksheet. So the responsibility you assign here should match your child support worksheet. It also asks you how you want to divide responsibility between the parents for unreimbursed and uncovered medical expenses incurred for the children. Typically these expenses are divided proportionately to the parents’ respective incomes. You can calculate each parent’s percentage by dividing their income by the combined income of both parents.
The next page requires you to sign your petition in front of a notary public or the clerk of the court. If you do not notarize your petition, you can ask the clerk to do so when you file it. Just do not sign the signature page until you get there.
The next several pages titled “Child Support Order” is a proposed order that the family court may use to enter its orders modifying child support. You do not need to fill this out.
Once you file, the petition to modify must be served on the other party pursuant to Rule 41. That party will have twenty days from the date of service to request a hearing. If no hearing is requested, the court will enter orders to modify child support.
The standard procedure uses a different form that requires mostly the same information as the simplified process. The forms for Maricopa County and Pima County can be downloaded below. If you are in another county, you should be able to obtain similar forms from the self-service center of your local superior court or its website.
Maricopa County Pima County
When the standard procedure is filed and served, the other party will have twenty days to file a response if served within Arizona or thirty days to file a response if served outside of Arizona. If a response is filed, the court will set a hearing — usually a specialty conference if modification of child support is the only issue pending. This type of hearing will require the parties to meet with a family court officer, not the judge assigned to their case, to try to resolve the modification. If the parties cannot agree, they will have a brief evidentiary hearing before a specialty court commissioner the same day. These proceedings are very relaxed and scheduled quite quickly compared to other types of family court proceedings that require hearings with their assigned judge. This can limit the parties’ ability to conduct discovery because the hearings can be scheduled just weeks after the petition is filed. This can be problematic for parents who need to obtain additional information regarding the other parent’s income or other factors that affect the child support calculation.
Parents who agree to modify child support can use yet another form. This form is very similar to the simplified procedure petition but requires both parents to sign and notarize their agreement.