Modifying Child Support: What You Must Know

An arrears balance with child support reflects any past-due child support payments owed to the custodial parent by the non-custodial parent plus interest which accrues on that balance. When a life-changing event forces you to fall behind on your child support obligations, you have several options available to you to not only correct your balance but potentially modify your child support order so that you are no longer making payments you cannot afford.

Arizona’s Requirements to Modify Child Support

Whether you are up-to-date on payments or in arrears, you still must meet the modification requirement that a substantial and continuing change of circumstances has occurred.  Examples of such substantial and continuing changes of circumstances include:

  • A change in parenting time has occurred.
  • Either parent has experienced a significant change in income, has gained income/employment, or has lost income/employment.
  • A child under the order has emancipated.
  • There is a change in who is covering the child’s health insurance premiums or there has been a substantial change in the premium.

Modifications can take time.  If, as a result of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances, the child support figure would change by at least 15%, you are able to proceed with what is known as a “Simplified Procedure” modification.  This process will only address child support and will not address the actual change in parenting time.  If parenting time changes should also be addressed, the regular Petition for Modification of Child Support should be used.  That process can take up to six months or longer, especially if they are a contested matter.  It is important to note that a new child support amount will not be entered retroactively.  In other words, if you experience a change of circumstances now but wait to modify until a year from now, the new amount of support will only be effective as of the request for modification rather than the year prior when you experienced the change in circumstances.

Options Other than Child Support Modification

If you do not meet the requirements for a change, but you carry an arrears balance, you might qualify for the Settlement Program through the state. This provides you an opportunity to pay your past due balance and helps you become current once again on your child support obligations. The Settlement Program is run through the Department of Economic Security.

If you are experiencing wage garnishments because of an arrears balance, this will be removed once you enter the Settlement Program, but you will not have the balance removed from your credit report until the settlement program has closed your case.

If your child support obligations have reached arrears, whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, you have options available to you. To explore options for enforcing child support or modifying an order to receive relief, speak with an attorney from Udall Shumway, PLC.

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 Modifying Child Support Arrears, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Barry C. Dickerson at 480.461.5300, log on to, 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.