Arizona child support guidelines are special in that they prioritize the “best interest of the child” at every step of a paternity or divorce proceeding. Similarly, alimony is substituted with “spousal maintenance” in the state.
What is the significance of this? And what does it mean for your kids?
Today we explore Arizona’s spousal maintenance guidelines inside out. Thus, this guide is for any parent who is going through a rough time dealing with the system. If after reading this you have further questions and would like a consultation, you can get a free case consultation from a lawyer here.
- How is Child Support Calculated in Arizona?
- Arizona Child Support Enforcement: How do I Enforce Child Support in Arizona?
- How Much Back-child Support is a Felony in Arizona?
- How to Stop Child Support in Arizona
Arizona’s judicial system has a calculator that you can use to determine your parental obligation, but how does it work?
The considerations factored in when calculating child support in Arizona include the amount of time each parent spends with the child, the age or ages of the children, education expenses, medical, and most importantly, the incomes of both parents. Note that in Arizona Child support becomes a legal obligation after alimony has been ordered in court. That means to get support, you must first apply for assistance, after which the amount will be garnished directly from the non-custodial parent and sent to the child support clearinghouse.
However, if you and your partner agree, the money can either be collected directly in cash or via “direct pay”.
The system is very efficient because ARS 23-722.01 (d) demands that Arizona employers report new hires within 20 days.
The DES (Arizona Department of Economic Security) uses information gathered to match new hires and open child support cases. To make things worse, the state uses shaming tactics to flush out notorious child support evaders. Keep reading, we will explain below.
Are verbal child support agreements legally binding?
Regardless of whether or not there is a verbal agreement between the parents… Once you are reported to the DES and the amount is approved, your employer will have no option but to deduct alimony directly from your paycheck.
How is Alimony Awarded in Arizona?
Arizona’s child protection laws require that one, paternity is established, two, the child, or children are under 18, three, the caretaker, agency, or other party has primary custody, four, the caregivers are separated or divorced and there is no standing child support order, and five, both parents must be given legal notice that child support will be established. Meaning, the system can’t start garnishing your wages without telling you.
Furthermore, the amount you’ll end up paying will depend on:
- The needs of the kids.
- Your ability to pay.
- Finances of both parents.
Remarriage isn’t considered grounds for modifying child support orders in Arizona. Because state law requires that there must be “a substantial and continuing change of circumstance”. Consequently, if you are the non-custodial parent and you get remarried, it is very difficult to reduce your obligation even if you get more kids.
On what grounds can I modify child support?
Arizona law allows you to request a modification to child support if:
- You lose your job.
- Become disabled.
- Increased or decreased income.
- Changing or adding health insurance.
We hinted that Arizona uses shame tactics to force parents to meet their obligation. Accordingly, on the state website, there is a section dedicated to hunting down child support evaders. To earn your spot on that wall, you must owe more than $5000, location is unknown, your arrearage is equal to or greater than 12 months, or DCSS has not received payments in the last six months.
However, if you are involved in a bankruptcy proceeding or receiving welfare, your mug won’t show up there. This raises the question:
Apart from posting your face on the internet with a wanted sign on it, the worst that could happen is jail time. The thing is, the state of Arizona takes child protection very seriously, accordingly, failure to pay will trigger:
- Credit bureau reporting that will make obtaining a loan or mortgage problematic or expensive.
- Your bank account or property may be seized if your arrearage surpasses 12 months.
- Liens on cars, properties, or homes.
- The DCSS can intercept or take your tax refunds.
- Your professional, recreational, or driver’s licenses may be suspended for six months.
- The money will be taken directly from your source of income, which includes, compensation, unemployment, or retirement benefits.
What if I win the lottery? Unless you are that guy that wore a scream mask to collect his prize, any amount you win above $600.00 is subject to intercept buy the DCSS.
“Failure of a parent to provide for a child” is a class VI felony that carries a maximum sentence of 1.5 years in prison. If the amount in question doesn’t reach felony level, you might be charged with a misdemeanor, and that may mean a $2500 fine plus up to six months in jail or more.
What usually happens is an individual for whatever reason fails to pay. This gives the custodial parent cause to report delinquency and you are charged with “contempt of court”. At this stage, the delinquent parent is hunted down and charged.
Consequently, if you know that you will be unable to meet your parental obligation for say a month or two, it is in your best interest to contact the custodial parent and come up with an agreement. Alternatively, or if you are not on speaking terms with your ex, contact the court and let them know that you have financial problems that may affect your ability to pay.
Additional Reading: CPS Case Laws – How long does a CPS conviction stay on your record?
Retroactive child support is a thing in Arizona, which means, a child support order can start in august, but be backdated to January. This is what we call “back child support“. The good news is retroactive child support only applies if:
- There is no existing child support order.
- The court must determine if the amount is appropriate.
Arizona’s revised statute 25-320 states, quote:
“if child support has not been ordered by a child support order and if the court deems child support appropriate, the court shall direct, using a retroactive application of the child support guidelines to the date of filing a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support proceeding, the amount that the parents shall pay for the past support of the child”.
This raises the question; how far back can retroactive child support be ordered?
3 years, that is according to ARS 25-320. However, the period cannot exceed beyond three years before the divorce filing. Custodial parents note that retroactive child support is not automatic, there is a process that you must follow. So, consult with a lawyer to find out if you are eligible.
can child support be modified retroactively in Arizona?
For non-custodial parents, the good news is child support modifications cannot be made retroactively in Arizona, however, you can reduce your future burden by simply consulting with a lawyer.
Traditionally, child support ends when the child reaches 18.
However, state law allows teens above 16 to file a motion to become emancipated. Once the emancipation process is completed, you will no longer be legally required to provide food, health insurance, and clothing to the child. This law also excludes you from any damage that the child might cause to someone else’s property.
If you are a teen, you are eligible for emancipation if:
- You are Financially self-sufficient.
- Can provide proof that you’ve been living on your own for at least 6 months.
- Demonstrate to the court why your home is an unsafe environment.
- Provide a notarized document from your parents, consenting to emancipation.
That said. Your child support order will have a stop date on it; though, the stop date doesn’t automatically trigger. That means once the child reaches 18, or once the stop date comes. You must file a petition that will prevent wage garnishment.
What if I overpay?
We advise that you work with a lawyer closely throughout the process of termination to resolve any future problems, because, if the argument is on point, he or she can help you recover the amount you overpaid.
Do Arizona child support laws permit payments after 18?
Like most states, child support doesn’t necessarily end at 18 in Arizona. For example, if the child is still in high school, child support must be paid until completion. Furthermore, if the child is disabled, either physically or mentally, child support may be indefinite.
What about college?
Once the child has reached 19 and is out of high school, you’re no longer obliged to continue making child support payments.
Arizona takes child protection very seriously, in the state, willful and intentional failure to pay alimony is considered a class IV felony. Additionally, some circumstances allow child support to be backdated. Meaning, your obligation can add up quickly.
So, work very closely with a family lawyer throughout the process, and contact DCSS to start the process.
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If you feel the need to discuss your situation further, you can contact a lawyer for a free consultation.
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