Child Support Attorneys in Peoria, Arizona
Arizona Child Support Guidelines
I. General Information
The purpose of Child Support is “To establish a standard of support for children consistent with their reasonable needs and the parents’ ability to pay.”
The three main factors that determine child support are (1) the income of parents; (2) the parenting time of each parent; (3) the cost of health insurance for minor children. This information is placed into the Arizona computer-based child support worksheet and a “presumptive” child support figure is calculated. The purpose of using the child support calculator is to ensure consistent child support orders for all families in Arizona. This also helps avoid unnecessary litigation and is supposed to encourage resolutions of child support issues.
Below are some answers to common issues associated with calculating child support:
The “support” of other persons (like stepchildren) is voluntary and does not impact a child support determined under the guidelines.
There is a presumption is that each parent is capable of earning at least full-time minimum wage employment.
In cases where there are orders for both spousal maintenance and child support, the court must first determine the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance and then adjust the child support accordingly. Just because one parent is entitled to child support does not mean they are entitled to spousal maintenance.
There are circumstances where a parent, even though they may have more parenting time than the other parent, will be ordered to pay child support.
If the non-paying parents is violating legal decision-making or withholding parenting time, it does not serve as a defense to not paying child support.
Basic adjustments included in child support calculations include costs for health insurance premiums and child-care expenses. There are specific sections in the child support calculator for these costs.
If a person does not have a duty to support a child, that person’s income is not included as child support income (most commonly, a parent’s new spouse or significant other’s income is not going to be factored into a child support calculation).
The maximum amount of child support a person can be ordered to pay is capped at 50% of a parent’s disposable income.
Child support is capped at the paying parent’s first $30,000 per month of income. If a parent seeks to use a payor’s income above $30,000, they must demonstrate to the court that it is in the child’s best interest.
II. Determining Income
What Is Included in Child Support Income?
Child Support Income includes income from “any source before any deductions or withholdings.”
This includes “salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, military pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability benefits, military disability benefits, recurring gifts, prices, and spousal maintenance.”
If there is seasonal or fluctuating income for one party, the income is annualized.
Income from self-employment, rent, royalties, or joint ownership of a corporation means gross receipts minus (-) ordinary expenses to produce the income. Expense reimbursement in self-employment is included a child support income if they are “significant and reduce personal living expenses.”
What Is Excluded from Child Support Income?
Money received in the form of child support.
Benefits from public assistance programs including TANF, SSI, and Food Stamp programs.
Distribution of marital property.
The income of a parent’s new spouse, stepparent, or significant other.
If a parent is paying child support for a child of a different relationship, the amount they pay is deducted from the parent’s income.
Generally overtime is not included in child support income.
A court may consider overtime income if that income was (1) historically earned; and (2) is anticipated to continue into the future.
In fact, a parent that historically worked overtime may choose to reduce or eliminate overtime work to ensure they have a meaningful to opportunity to exercise parenting time.
Attributing Income Even when It Is Not Earned
The presumption in Arizona is that each parent is capable of obtaining at least full-time minimum wage employment (40 hours per week at the legal minimum wage). That means even if one party is unemployed or working part-time, the court will impute minimum wage.
The court will may not attribute income for child support in limited circumstances and include situations where a parent is:
Physically or mentally incapable of earning minimum wage;
Engaged in career or occupational training to establish skills to enhance earning capacity;
The caretaker of a child and the cost of childcare is prohibitive;
Required to remain in the home because of unusual emotional or physical needs.
Effect of Spousal Maintenance and Child Support
Generally, maintenance payments are deducted from that parent’s child support income.
After December 31, 2018, maintenance payments are no longer tax-deductible from the paying parent’s income.
In calculating child support when maintenance is involved, having a skilled lawyer is essential. Otherwise, the court will default to the maintenance figure without a tax consideration for payor and the payor can be missing on a significant deduction.
Arizona rules recently changed and there is now a deduction available for the payors of spousal maintenance in certain situations. This new deduction was allotted because the party earning money to make maintenance payments naturally creates a tax obligation. This issue was previously ignored by the Arizona child support calculator. This advantage must be advocated by the party paying maintenance. In sum, when the party paying spousal maintenance is using taxable income to fund the payments, and the paying parent needs a greater gross income to make the payment, an adjustment to income for tax purposes is available.
The equation afforded in the child support guidelines is not intuitive and is new. Please contact us for a further analysis of this recent change and how it may affect your receipt or payment of spousal maintenance.
III. Child Support Deviations
A child support deviation may occur when the court orders (or the parties agree) to a higher or lower amount of child support than what is presumptively calculated by the child support calculator.
The main situations where a deviation may be appropriate are when:
There is a significant disparity in income.
The parenting plan requires one parent to incur significant travel expenses related to exercising parenting time. Namely, if the cost of travel will impede the parent’s ability to exercise parenting time, it may be considered in a child support deviation.
The child support obligation would compromise a parent’s ability to receive and afford out-of-pocket extraordinary medical (physical and mental health) expenses.
When one parent pays disproportionate amount of a child’s expenses.
There are unusual emotional or physical needs of a natural or adopted child that is not common o the parties if that child requires that parent’s presence in the home.
The parties otherwise agree a deviation is otherwise appropriate.
Please note there is no formula for calculating the deviation. The court must consider the child’s best interest in determining that the amount of a deviation. This analysis is very discretionary.
IV. Child Support Adjustments
An order for child support may be adjusted in the following situations:
Medical Insurance – the cost of medical insurance attributable toa child, subject to a child support order, is included in any adjustments. This information is obtained on a health insurance spreadsheet called a differential. It will determine the cost for insurance for an individual, and then itemize the cost for minor children. The difference between the two is the credit a party will receive.
Childcare expenses – the amount paid for childcare so a parent can work may be added to the basic calculation.
Education expenses – expenses for attending private or special schools (or expenses to meet the particular needs of a child) may be considered in adjusting child support.
Extraordinary child expenses – if a child is gifted or has special needs which result in additional expenses for a child support payor, this may be considered in calculating child support.
Older Child Adjustment – the basic child support obligation is adjusted upward by 10%. This adjustment occurs when the child reaches age 12.
Note: The Child Support guidelines changed on January 1, 2022. Nothing has materially changed with regards to the overall merits of calculating child support in Arizona. Other than updated economic being used, material changes to child support calculations did not occur.