Planning for Child Support in Arizona

Pursuing a divorce or legal separation in Arizona can be a stressful time, especially if there are children involved. As a parent, you want to make sure that any agreement made between you and your ex-spouse during or after the divorce is in favor of your child or children. A key way to ensure security and protection for your child is through the financial means of child support.

To ensure that you are equipping your children with as many resources as possible, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of child support. Whether you are expecting to be making Arizona child support payments or receiving them, this child support guide will walk you through everything you need to prepare for your case. Then, be sure to reach out to The Valley Law Group for representation in your Arizona Child Support case.

Child Support in AZ

Understanding child support in Arizona can be summarized by a few select processes. It’s critical to understand relevant definitions, calculate your payment using a child support calculator (contact us to help), and browse frequently asked questions and other critical information. This child support guide from The Valley Law Group will address each of these processes.

Defining Arizona Child Support

Child support in Arizona is an ongoing payment made by a parent to the child’s other parent intended to support a predetermined portion of the financial needs of that child. Child support payments are paid to the parent but are to be used for expenses that will directly benefit the child. The needs Arizona child support can support for children include basic needs such as food, clothes, shelter, and transportation. Other critical expenses important to raising the child, such as educational costs, healthcare costs, or extracurricular activity expenses, are covered by child support as well.

Overall, the court will determine the funds necessary to meet the child’s “reasonable needs” for basic subsistence, education, healthcare, and other maintenance, then consider the incomes and child-related expenses of both parents to arrive at a reasonable child support payment for a parent not residing with the child.

Defining Income For Child Support Purposes

Child support payments are typically made to the custodial parent and calculated by a judge using the Arizona child support calculator (contact us to help), an algorithm designed to arrive at the fairest possible decision. The income of each parent is weighed heavily during these calculations.

The income that is used to determine child support payments includes any stream of revenue through which a parent is receiving money. This can include money from wages and salaries, winnings from commissions at work, or bonuses based on performance. In terms of employment agreements, income can also be money from severance packages or workers’ compensation, as well as unemployment insurance benefits and social security.

Income for child support purposes can also include money back from investments, such as dividends and capital gains. Additionally, any money received through a trust or spousal support will be taken into account. There are other payments that are considered to be income for child support purposes, which are not listed here. An experienced Arizona child support attorney can help you determine how your income and the income of your ex-spouse will be calculated for child support reasons.

Child Support Resources in AZ

In Arizona, although the considerations to calculate child support are laid out by the state government, this can sometimes lead to more confusion than clarity. Overall, it’s important to know where key resources are located and who to reach out to in times of confusion or anxiety when it comes to child support.

Planning For Child Support in Arizona: Child Support Calculator

While Arizona’s own child support algorithm is essential for creating child support rulings, it can be nothing short of mysterious to anxious parents facing child support determinations for the first time. Our free child support calculator (contact us to help) is not an official ruling, but it can help both the paying parent and the receiving parent know what to expect when the hearing date arrives. Simply enter the pertinent information and calculate an estimated child support payment to set your mind at ease.

The Valley Law Group Can Help With Child Support Payment Calculations

Learn more about what is examined to make the official child support ruling below.

The Arizona Child Support Guidelines

As mentioned above, the Arizona Supreme Court uses a strict protocol for calculating how much child support should be paid out to a parent, which is known as the “Arizona Child Support Guidelines.” The Arizona Child Support Guidelines were created with the idea of emulating how much money each parent would have spent on the child if they were still together to provide the same lifestyle to which the child has become accustomed.

The overall goal of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines is to ensure that children have the resources that they need to flourish and that each parent contributes financially based on their capacity to provide. Because child support payments are critical to the child’s upbringing, it’s also important to ensure that payment amounts are decided upon in an expedited manner, and the Arizona Child Support Guidelines provide the framework to promote efficient calculations of payments.

Calculations Based on the Arizona Child Support Guideline

The Arizona Child Support Guidelines were informed by economists, who decided what the essential or baseline level of child support would be for a family based on the number of children involved and the income of each parent. When calculating child support payments based on the total income of the two parents, this total income is capped at $20,000 per month, which can pose issues to high-income households who make more than this each month. However, there are workarounds to this issue, which can be addressed with the support of a child support lawyer.

In addition to income as a consideration in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines calculations, additional children in the family who are not related to a spouse, the age of the children, the payments associated with parenting time, healthcare, and general childcare are considered. Also, there are certain adjustments in the calculator for low-income families, as well as those who are self-employed.

Can Child Custody Be Appealed in Arizona

These special situations can make straightforward calculations difficult. For example, in addition to earning income from business returns, self-employed parents may be receiving additional income by expensing certain payments to the business. The Arizona court system typically handles such a situation by having spouses who own their own businesses pay a certain amount of child support in advance, which is equal to about six months of child support. The court will also attempt to determine how much money the business grosses and ensure only expenses necessary to keep the business running are deducted from the total profits.

As you can see, the Arizona Family Court attempts to consider all factors so that each parent is paying or receiving child support payments that are fair and not overwhelming.

Your Best Resource: An Arizona Child Support Lawyer

A knowledgeable and experienced Arizona child support lawyer can not only help you anticipate the child support payments you can expect to receive or make – but they can also help you ensure your child support payment calculations are done correctly the first time. This way, you won’t encounter financial difficulties, problems, or disputes down the line that could have a negative impact on your child’s well-being.

A strong child support attorney should set aside time for you to analyze all of your financial documents and understand your family’s situation before and after separation. Perhaps most importantly, they can help you determine your child’s needs and ensure they are considered during child support calculations. A skilled attorney can also help you negotiate outside of the courtroom with your ex-spouse for other childcare expenses that are not covered by state law, such as college tuition.

Child Support FAQs

One of the most useful resources you can find before your child support case ensues is the questions asked by other concerned parents. Here are answers to some of the most common questions our clients ask The Valley Law Firm.

How Are Child Support Payments Determined in Arizona?

In Arizona, child support payments are determined by using a specific protocol agreed upon by the Arizona Supreme Court, which is known as the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines approximate how much money each parent would have spent on the child if they were still residing together. Based on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, each parent should support the upbringing of the child, depending on what they are able to provide from their income. It typically happens that the parent who does not have custody will need to pay child support payments to stand in for the expenses they would be responsible for if they were still residing in the home.

How Are Child Support Payments Amounts Calculated in Arizona?

Child support payments in Arizona are calculated based on the gross income of each parent, healthcare expenses of the child, daycare expenses in the case that the parent is not working at home, education expenses of the child,  the number of children living in the home and their ages, and the amount of visitation time of each parent, as well as other factors.

Typically, the child support payment amount calculated using the calculator from the Arizona Child Support Guidelines is considered to be the final amount that each parent will need to pay or receive. However, in some outstanding cases, the courts may decide to adjust the payment amounts based on the details of the case.

How Long Are Arizona Child Support Payments Made?

In the child support order issued by the Arizona courts, there is a date of termination listed. This date is most often the last day of the 18th birthday month of the youngest child who is receiving support. In the event that the youngest child will finish high school after they turn 18, then the child support payments will cease on the last day of the month of expected graduation or the last day of the birthday month they turn 19. In this case, the date chosen will be whichever occurs first.

There are some cases where Arizona courts may order a parent to continue child support payments after the child turns 18 or graduates high school. If the child has severe physical or mental disabilities and will not be able to support themselves financially as an adult, then child support payments may need to continue indefinitely. In addition, many parents determine that child support payments should continue as the child enters college, but this is not mandated by Arizona law.

What Is Not Considered to Be Income For Child Support Purposes?

When calculating the amount of child support that each parent will need to pay or receive based on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, there are parts of a parent’s income that are not included. Support from the government, such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income, is not counted towards income. Additionally, the child support payments themselves will not be included.

Which Parent Pays Child Support in a Joint Custody Parenting Arrangement?

In Arizona, each parent is responsible for providing financial support for their child according to their parenting time and income. Therefore, even in joint custody arrangements, one parent will likely still be making child support payments to another parent. The only way child support payments would not need to be made is if the parents made the exact same amount of money over a certain duration and if their visitation time was exactly the same, which is highly improbable.

If My Child Emancipates, Do I Still Have to Pay AZ Child Support?

Emancipation occurs when a 16 or 17-year-old in the state of Arizona is granted guardianship over themself. However, it is granted only if they are able to show that they can support themselves financially. If your child is emancipated in Arizona, you will first need to submit paperwork to the family court stating that your child is now emancipated. If approved, your payments should be reduced in amount, and you can get paid back for any overpayments that were made during this process.

Can Parents Agree on Child Support Amounts in Arizona?

In the state of Arizona, it is possible to agree on child support payment amounts in the initial separation agreement. The parents can agree on an amount that is greater than the amount suggested by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, and they can also agree on payment periods that outlast Arizona requirements. If these arrangements are written into the divorce agreement, then they can be enforced by the courts – but they must be approved by a judge first.

Additional payments that can be agreed upon by both parents may include college tuition and other expenses related to college, financial support for summer camps and other activities during summer vacation, support for travel experiences, and money for private school. It is important to request or agree upon an appropriate child support amount during the divorce because opening back up a child support case can be complex and hostile and have negative repercussions for the children in the family.

If I Get Virtual Visitation, Can I Pay Less AZ Child Support?

Virtual visitation arrangements in Arizona are made so that children can benefit from seeing each of their parents regardless of logistical difficulties like location or schedule. Virtual visitation arrangements are intended to enhance the relationship and communication between you and your child. If you are granted virtual visitation, it does mean that your child support payment amounts will be reduced.

Do I Have to Get a Court Order in Arizona?

It is highly recommended to get a child support order, although it is not required by law if you and the child’s other parent create a written agreement regarding child support. However, if one parent later fails to make the appropriate payment and the other decides to go to the court for enforcement of child support payments, all payments will be enforced retroactively and be required from the time that parents physically separated, with some exceptions. Therefore, in order to avoid confusion, have clarity on payment amounts, and avoid the enforcement of unexpected payments, it is recommended to get a child support court order at the time of separation.

The Valley Law Group: Your Ultimate Arizona Child Support Resource

Meet Your Marital Agreement Planning Needs

If you have reason to believe that you are overpaying child support or if you are not getting the financial support that you need for your children, then The Valley Law Group can help. Whether you need help navigating the initial child support negotiations during your initial separation agreement or pursuing a modification of an unfair agreement, our skilled family law attorneys are your best resource.

At The Valley Law Group, our team of dedicated Arizona child support attorneys has a wealth of combined experience handling complex child support cases. With each unique case, we leverage our understanding of the court system and proceedings, as well as legal knowledge about Arizona child support, to help parents solve their child support issues efficiently.

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