A Father’s Guide to Child Support in Arizona
Child support in Arizona is handled by the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS), part of the Department of Economic Security (DES). The function of DCSS is to collect child support from parents – most often fathers – who are legally obligated to provide financial support for their children. DCSS serves as a resource for paying and recipient parents in the form of support for parents requesting child support orders and making paying child support convenient for fathers and other paying parents. DCSS also offers help with modifications of payment orders, as well as past-due child support payments.
DCSS is a federal/state/local program that serves as a resource for families with three main goals. First, it was developed to ensure parents support their children. Secondly, DCSS strives to encourage family responsibility by offering resources and services to help families become self-reliant. Thirdly, the department aims to reduce costs for taxpayers.
Who Does Child Support Benefit?
Sometimes, fathers and other parents who will be paying child support can feel overwhelmed at the thought of having an extra expense and may feel resentful of the other parent. It may seem like the receiving parent is getting the better deal because they have additional income without additional expenses. While it can be difficult to let go of this perspective, it can help to take another perspective that shows how child support benefits everyone—even the parent ordered to pay.
Of course, the most obvious beneficiary of child support is the child. The idea is that with the additional income in the household, there will be more food in the house, more time with the custodial parent who can work less, and a more stable existence overall, but especially financially. The intent is that when the child needs something, whether the expense is expected or unexpected, the necessary funds are there to provide for those needs.
Arizona’s child support calculator determines an amount for child support payments that considers expenses, income, visitation, and circumstances of the individual family. The result is a precisely calculated, fair support payment that closely matches the contributions of the custodial parent. It is an intricate and complex equation that applies fair and equal consideration of all applicable variables.
Benefits For Fathers and Other Paying Parents
While the extra income does help relieve some of the financial burdens of the parent receiving the payments, the act of paying child support has benefits, as well. Studies show that fathers and other parents who pay child support are more likely to be active in their child’s life and involved in their children’s school and extracurricular activities. When noncustodial parents are more involved in their children’s lives, it fosters a positive and supportive environment for the healthy development of the children. This is a win-win for everyone, especially when fathers can build an optimistic perspective on their role in their child’s life and well-being.
How Does Child Support Work In AZ?
When one parent wishes to establish a child support order, they must complete the official request for the order and submit it to Arizona Family Court. The court then reviews the case and determines a monthly support amount for the paying parent to make to the recipient.
For the court to approve a request for a child support order, specific conditions must be met, including one or more of the following circumstances:
- The child(ren) to be included in the order is under 18
- Paternity has been established for all included children
- The parents are separated or divorced, but a child support order was not established at the time the divorce was finalized
- The parents never married
- A caretaker, agency or foster care organization, or another party has custody of the child
When one parent submits a request for a child support order, a case is opened with the DCSS, and the other parent is notified by mail. Both must be properly and legally notified that child support payments will be established. The paying parent – again, typically a father – will need to respond to the request within the timeframe stated in the notification. Many fathers hire a child support attorney to guide them through the process of receiving and responding to a court order for child support to protect their children’s interests and their rights as a father.
This process requires both parties to provide documents and information pertaining to the case. It is in the best interest of the children involved – and will make the process faster – if both parties comply and provide all requested information willingly. If either parent does not cooperate with proceedings or is uncooperative in establishing paternity, the case is subject to transfer to the Office of the Assistant Attorney General. When this occurs, a court hearing can be held to establish paternity, and child support will be ordered by the court. If a father does not respond to a notice of the request for a child support order, a “default order” can become legally valid and enforceable.
The following applicable information and documents will be required of either or both parents throughout the process:
- Child(ren)’s birth certificates
- Proof of established paternity
- Parents’ full names
- Both parents’ Social Security numbers (if available)
- Both parents’ most recent employer names and addresses
- Copies of other paternity-related orders
- Copies of any existing child support orders
- Records of child support payments made in the past
- Adoption records
- Marriage license(s)
- Divorce decree(s)
Suggested Reading: Legal Separation vs. Arizona Divorce
Monthly Amount a Father Pays in Child Support
Arizona Child Support Guidelines are made to ensure both parents contribute a fair share of their incomes and resources to provide for their children. When determining child support payment amounts, many factors are considered, such as the child’s needs, the income of both parents, and both parents’ ability to pay for the child’s needs.
A 65-page manual outlines the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, which are rather complex. As mentioned, however, the state offers a free online calculator that can help provide an estimate for fathers wanting to know how much their child support payments will be. While the amount provided by this online calculator is not official or binding, it does factor in unique requirements, such as a 10% increase in the average expenditure needs of children over the age of 12.
Below are some of the other factors that affect the amount of child support payments:
- Information about what intact families spend to care for their children and the monthly gross income of both parents
- The amount of parenting time (visitation) a father spends with the child – the determined amount accommodates for the shift in expenses for days when the child is with the other parent
- Childcare, medical support, and uninsured medical expenses are shared expenses of both parents, and the share the father pays affects the amount of child support payments
- Child support paid for other children – modification orders of already established child support orders may need to be adjusted if necessary to ensure the ordered support treats all children equally
- Tax benefits either parent receives may be incorporated into the child support payment determination
- Travel expenses associated with visitation that exceed 100 miles, one-way
- The number of children included in the order for child support, according to the Schedule of Basic Support Obligations table
Unless either parent can demonstrate a reason to modify the amount calculated by the guidelines, it is accepted as an appropriate amount. In addition, it is important to note that a child support order will list one of the parents as the provider of health coverage, though this responsibility may be assigned to both parents. Public medical coverage might be provided if neither parent can provide health coverage for the children.
Which Parent Has to Pay Child Support?
After the Final Child Support Amount is calculated by the state, the number generated will determine which parent must pay child support. If the amount is a positive number, the parent with less parenting time will be ordered to pay the other parent. If parents have equal parenting time, the parent with the higher Adjusted Child Support Income will be ordered to pay child support to the other parent.
If the Final Child Support Amount is a negative number, the parent with more parenting time pays the other parent. If, in this situation, parents have equal parenting time, the parent with the lower Adjusted Child Support Income pays child support to the other parent.
If the Final Child Support Amount comes out to be zero, neither parent will be ordered to pay child support, as the calculator has determined financial support for the child(ren) is already being shared equally.
What If a Father Cannot Afford Child Support?
While the amount established for support payments is carefully calculated so fathers and other paying parents can afford the payments, sometimes, they may have difficulty paying child support. There are many potential reasons for this, including the lack of skills or training to keep a job, mental illness, substance use disorder, or other extenuating situations. The DCSS aims to ensure that both parents have the assistance they need to provide for their families and works with other departments that provide services and benefits like nutrition assistance, cash assistance, vocational rehabilitation, childcare, and job searches.
The DCSS states that the child support obligation takes priority over all other financial obligations. Still, the guidelines calculator described above incorporates a Self-Support Reserve Test so fathers can ensure they will meet their own basic needs and contribute to the child’s needs.
Does the State of Arizona Pay It?
If a father or other child support payer does not pay court-ordered child support payments, the state does not pay on his behalf. Missed payments will go into arrears, and interest will accrue at a rate set forth by the state. Non-paying fathers are then subject to income withholding to make payments toward past-due child support payments. The amount of these payments is determined by the courts and considers the accrual of interest and the time it will take to pay arrears in full. If fathers are experiencing a substantial and prolonged change in circumstances like job loss, pay reduction, or disability, income withholding amounts may be adjusted.
It is part of the DCSS’ responsibility to make sure child support payments are collected. In addition to wage withholding, DCSS may withhold income from the father’s federal or state tax return, lottery winnings, bank accounts and other financial assets, unemployment benefits, and worker’s compensation payments, among other income sources. DCSS has the legal authority to take additional enforcement actions, including denial of passports, credit bureau reporting, and property lien actions, among others.
Duration of Child Support Payments
A probable termination of support payments is included in court orders for child support payments. The calculator incorporates the duration determination for support payments automatically. This date is the presumed last day of the month of the child’s 18th birthday, the last day of the anticipated month the youngest child will graduate from high school, or age 19, whichever occurs first.
Can a Child Support Order Be Changed?
Either parent may file a request for modification through the court if the new amount requested reflects a 15% variance from the original ordered amount. Certain forms are required to file this request, including a child support worksheet, an affidavit of financial information, and the original court order. If the filing parent needs help finding these forms, an experienced child support attorney can assist in the process of locating and filing the forms. To file a Request for Modification of Child Support, documented proof of the need for the modification must also be included when filing.
Once the other parent is served with the notice of request for a modification, they can request a hearing within 20 days to determine acceptance of the modification. However, if the other parent does not respond in a timely manner, the court will review the evidence and accept or deny the request at its discretion.
Child Support FAQs
Fathers and other parents ordered to pay child support often have a number of questions regarding these critical payments. Learn more about the child support process.
Handling a Father’s Child Support Obligation in Arizona
If you are a father paying child support in Arizona, it is crucial to stay up to date on your child support payments for your own financial security, the well-being of your child, and a positive relationship with your child’s other parent. If you have experienced a significant change in circumstances and can no longer pay the full amount of your child support obligation, it is critical to consult with a child support attorney as soon as possible to request a modification. Similarly, if you have encountered a dispute with your child’s other parent regarding child support amounts, the allocation of funds, or any other child support factors, a child support attorney can help you determine whether the dispute should be resolved in Arizona Family Court.
For more information about child support in Arizona or to begin the process of modifying your child support order, reach out to the experienced child support attorneys at The Valley Law Group today.
Jonathan Roeder, Co-Founder of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.