An overview of child support in Arizona

Arizona law requires all parents to provide “reasonable support” for their minor children. This standard applies to both custodial and non-custodial parents. It also applies to parents who may never have been married to each other. The amount of child support owed by one parent to another is calculated according to Arizona Child Support Guidelines that were adopted on April 1, 2018. The exact amount of support depends upon a number of factors that are unique to each set of parents and their minor children.

The Arizona child support guidelines use an “income share model” that is sometimes referred to as a “necessities-based model.” The drafters of the Arizona child support guidelines wanted to create a uniform method of calculating support that treats all parents and children consistently. Payment of child support is a very serious obligation; repeated failures to pay can subject the delinquent parent to serious penalties, including an occasional jail sentence. Parents can negotiate an agreement for payment of child support that can include both the amount and the frequency, so long as the terms of the agreement do not deviate too far from the state guidelines.

The obligation to pay child support lasts until the child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school. If the child has not graduated from high school, the support obligation ends when the child turns 19. The rules for terminating child support are based on several assumptions:

  • The child will graduate from high school in May.
  • The child will enter first grade he or she will reach the age of 6 before September 1 of any given year.

These assumptions may be varied by the judge if the situation requires modification.

The amount of child support depends upon the parties’ gross incomes, which in turn, depend upon salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, Social Security or Worker’s Compensation benefits, recurring gifts, prizes, and more. The court may also add in a parent’s “earning capacity” if one parent has the ability to earn a significant amount of money.

After determining each parent’s gross income, the court will make certain adjustments to reflect current obligations, such as court-ordered maintenance paid in the current or a past case. At this point, the court will use the Child Support Calculation tables to calculate how much the parents owe for this support. This amount will be apportioned based upon each parent’s gross income. Expenses for health care, childcare, education and special needs children are usually deducted in calculating what each parent must pay.

The maximum amount of child support depends upon the incomes of the parents and the number of children for which support must be paid. The child support calculator takes these factors into account in specifying the maximum child support that a parent can be ordered to pay. Each case is different, and prediction the maximum support payment can be difficult.

Anyone who is facing the prospect of a divorce in which child support is likely to be an important and irresolvable issue may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice on how child support will be calculated.