Understanding how child support works in Arizona is important for both parents. An official child support order details which parent is responsible for paying the support, the amount of that payment, how often such a payment needs to be made, and which parent will receive the support for the children.

When is Child Support Awarded?

It’s a mistake to assume that child support is only awarded during an Arizona divorce. The court also has power to order child support when a married couple separates, when an unmarried couple previously living together ends their relationship, or when an unmarried parent not previously living with the other parent requests it. In these situations involving unmarried couples, paternity has to be established.

How the Court Awards Support Payments

The Arizona Supreme Court Child Support Guidelines provide the details for determining child support within the state. These guidelines attempt to capture both the child’s needs and the parent’s ability to pay. Unless these guidelines would be unfair to the children, the court has to use them in determining child support.  The Guidelines are a “calculator” of sorts and it is more common to have a dispute about what numbers should be used in the calculator than a dispute about the number that is calculated as a result.

Can an Award be Modified?

After an initial child support order is entered, one or both parents could request a modification in the future based on a substantial and continuing change of circumstances. A review of the situation is conducted to look at the income of the parents, the existing Arizona support guidelines, and whether a substantial and continuing circumstance has emerged that serves as the basis for a modification. The review of your case could lead to a decrease, an increase, or no change in your child support order. Having an attorney advise you about the next steps to take in this situation is a smart plan if you have concerns about altering an existing order.

What about Minor Parents?

Minor parents are not exempted from having a potential obligation for child support, but the age of that parent is considered in determining the appropriate amount to be paid under the guidelines. Make sure you retain an Arizona family law attorney to help walk you through these requirements if this applies to you.

Can Parents Make Their Own Child Support Agreement?

Establishing a child support agreement is an option for parents who can agree on an amount.  Such an agreement should always be reduced to writing and confirmed by the Court.  That way, there is no confusion about what should have been paid and whether it has been paid. The court’s role in this case is to ensure that the agreement is fair to all parties and confirms to the minimum mandatory support guidelines.

Do I Need an Arizona Family Law Attorney?

In any case where you are looking at complex issues like paternity, divorce, child custody, or child support, it is a good idea to have a trusted family law attorney helping you. The law can be complicated, and it’s easy to misunderstand both your rights and your responsibilities when it comes to these issues. Understanding how courts arrive at decisions and especially what they will look at when you request a modification is a step that should not be skipped. Get assistance today so that you can plan ahead for how child support will impact your family going forward.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Basics of Arizona Child Support, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Lindsay A.M. Olivarez at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.