The Grand Canyon State is an income shares state. Lawmakers presumed that children of divorced parents should be entitled to the same standard of living they would have had if their parents remained married, which is why Arizona’s child support guidelines take both parents’ income into account for child support purposes.
Job changes and other changes are the norm for most people, which is why it is relatively easy to modify child support obligations in Arizona, provided that such changes are in the best interests of the children and not just in the best interests of one parent.
The guideline child support obligation is presumed to be reasonable, and this presumption is very strong. First, to arrive at an initial amount, the court considers a baseline according to the number of children before the court, and then adds any additional amount necessary for:
- Educational expenses, such as private school tuition,
- Special physical or emotional needs, and
- Children over 12.
Litigation is not unusual on these points, because there is a difference between the needs of the child and the desires of a child, or the desires of a parent. For example, one parent may firmly believe that the child should be in an expensive Catholic school, but the other parent just as firmly believes that the public school system is more than adequate.
After determining the total obligation, the court divides it proportionally between the parents based on their income, amount of parenting time, any stepchildren, and other factors. If the court finds that guideline child support would be inappropriate or unfair, the court may adjust the amount due, based on such factors as:
- Child’s financial needs,
- Parent’s financial resources,
- Child’s needs, and
- Parent’s destruction of community property resources.
Modifying Child Support
If financial or other circumstances change, parents can modify previous child support obligations in one of two ways:
- Income Change: If an obligor’s income changes by more than 15 percent, either party may file a motion to reduce or augment the obligor’s share, and judges routinely grant these motions.
- Changed Circumstances: If the modification is not based on income but something like the end of daycare, the modifying party must establish that the circumstances have materially and substantially changed since the date of the prior order.
Modifications are usually only retroactive to the date of filing, if then, so any filing delay can mean thousands of dollars.
Rely On an Experienced Attorney
Child support amounts must always be in the best interests of the children. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Tempe, contact the Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack. Convenient payment plans are available.