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Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support

Agreements on child support: Can my spouse and I agree on a child support amount that is different from the statutory calculation?

The Court can permit the parties to settle on an amount of child support that is different from the statutory calculation. In order to do so, however, both parties must sign a statement indicating that they are aware of what the child support would have been had they not entered into the agreement. You must attach a Child Support Worksheet to your decree.

Income tax exemptions: Who gets the income tax exemptions for the children?

The federal and state income taxes exemptions for the children are also generally divided in proportion to the parties’ incomes. In order for the paying parent to claim the children during his/her year, the parent must be current in his/her child support obligation for that year. This is determined by statute, but may be modified by agreement of both parties.

Parenting time: What if my spouse does not allow me to see my children. Do I still need to pay child support?

Yes, you still have an obligation to pay child support. You have an obligation to continue to pay child support until a court orders that you may stop. It is common for parents to want to withhold child support if the other spouse is not abiding by the court-ordered parenting time, but courts frown upon either party not following the court?s orders.

When does my child support obligation end?

Child support orders apply to any child under the age of 18, or a child who is still attending high school or an equivalency program. Also, if a child is mentally or physically handicapped, the judge may order that support payments continue indefinitely, past the age of majority (18).

Out-of-state child support order: Can I enforce an out-of-state child support order in Arizona?

Yes, you can enforce the out-of-state child support order. It will be necessary for you to register the out-of-state child support order with the Arizona courts, so that Arizona has jurisdiction and you have an Arizona case number. To ?register? your case means that you will need a certified copy of your domestic relations file from the other state and file it with the Arizona courts.

Do I have to pay child support if I do not have a job or lose my job?

Yes, you are under a court order to continue to pay child support. If the unfortunate circumstance occurs and a parent does not have employment, it may be necessary for that parent to request that the court modify the child support obligation to reflect the current situation.

What can I do if the obligated parent does not pay child support?

If an obligated parent does not pay child support, you may file a Petition to Enforce Child Support, Child Support Arrears and Medical Expense Reimbursement. Often, all three of those issues go together. It makes sense to include those three issues in one petition, because if the obligated parent is not paying child support, you will want to ask the court to enforce the child support order in effect. You will also want the obligated parent to pay for the months he/she did not pay, along with any medical expenses he/she did not pay. Also be advised that it is appropriate in that petition to ask for the obligated parent to pay your attorney?s fees if you hire an attorney for this issue.

Can child support be modified?

Child support is modifiable if there is a change in circumstances that would result in a 15 percent change in the support amount; moreover, the support terminates upon the emancipation of the child. In Arizona, emancipation occurs at age 18 or high school graduation, whichever occurs later, but not later than age 19.

What about other child expenses that are not included in the child support worksheet?

One parent will be required to maintain health insurance for the children, and if there are any medical/dental/vision/orthodontia expenses not covered by insurance, the parties will often divide those expenses in proportion to their incomes.

Paying Child Support

Who Pays Child Support?

Using the above-described factors, the Child Support Worksheet and the court will be able to determine which parent (if either) should pay child support. The law provides that when the court grants a custody order, it also must decide what amount of child support should be paid by each parent under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Joint custody does NOT mean that either parent is no longer responsible to provide for the support of the child.

How Is Child Support Paid?

Child support must be paid in money ? not in clothing or gifts. It must be paid through the clearinghouse in the state of Arizona if there is a court order for support. In Arizona, most child support payments are made through the ?clearinghouse,? and, if possible, through wage assignment. If a parent is ordered to make child support payments through the clearinghouse, that parent shall send the payment to the clearinghouse directly, not to the other parent. The clearinghouse keeps track of all payments. If you have been ordered to make payments through the clearinghouse and you make payments directly to the other parent, those direct payments may be considered as gifts to the other parent. If that is the case, you will not be given credit that you paid child support that month and may be required to pay again to the clearinghouse.

A ?wage assignment? is now required for the payment of child support, and in some cases, for the payment of spousal maintenance (alimony). An assignment requires an employer or other payor (either a person or company) of a parent who is obligated by court order to pay a certain amount of child support each month to withhold that amount from the wages or money owed to the parent (employee) and to send that amount directly to the clearinghouse. This type of assignment applies to salary, wages, commissions and any type of payments received by the parent ordered to pay support. Either the person required to pay support or the person entitled to receive it can request an assignment order (A.R.S. ?25-323 and 12-2454).

How is Child Support Calculated?

Child support can be easily calculated under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines after several other variables have been determined. Specifically, the following information is required to calculate child support:

1. Each parent’s monthly gross income

Gross income includes: receipt of spousal maintenance, Social Security, workman?s compensation, severance pay, commissions, disability benefits, unemployment benefits, retirement plans, interest, self-employment, bonuses, gifts, prizes (lottery winnings), rental income, trust income, pensions, annuities, dividends and capital gains.

2. The amount of spousal maintenance paid or received by either parent

3. The amount of court-ordered child support paid by one parent for support of children not common to the other parent

4. The cost to one parent of supporting children not common to the other parent

5. The amount of the medical insurance premium for the children

6. The child care expenses

7. The physical custody schedule

Calculation of child support never includes a new marriage partner, only the two parents of the child.

What is mediation?

Family law mediation is a method of resolving issues and disputes during the difficult time of divorce by talking with a mediator to resolve your disagreements. Mediation is conducted in a relaxed, comfortable office atmosphere with the mediator and the parties. Family law mediation can also be used to help persons with other legal family issues, such as separation, child custody, child support, post-decree modifications, disputes about parenting issues after a divorce, domestic partnership issues with children and property, and unmarried person issues with children and property. There are myriad issues and problems that may confront people when they are attempting to navigate the emotional terrain of family.

What About Other Child Expenses That Are Not Included in the Child Support Worksheet?

One parent will be required to maintain health insurance for the children, and it there are any medical/dental/vision/orthodontia expenses not covered by insurance, the parties will often divide those expenses in proportion to their incomes.

Can Child Support be Modified?

Child support is modifiable if there is a change in circumstances that would result in a fifteen (15) percent change in the support amount; moreover, the support terminates upon the emancipation of the child. In Arizona, emancipation occurs at age 18 or high school graduation, whichever occurs later, but not later than age 19.

What Can I Do if the Obligated Parent Does Not Pay Child Support?

If an obligated parent does not pay child support, you may file a Petition to Enforce Child Support, Child Support Arrears and Medical Expense Reimbursement. Often, all three of those issues go together. It makes sense to include those three issues in one petition, because if the obligated parent is not paying child support, you will want to ask the court to enforce the child support order in effect. You will also want the obligated parent to pay for the months he/she did not pay, along with any medical expenses he/she did not pay. Also, be advised that it is appropriate in that petition to ask for the obligated parent to pay your attorney’s fees if you hire an attorney for this issue.

Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Do Not Have a Job or Lose My Job?

Yes, you are under a court order to continue to pay child support. If the unfortunate circumstance occurs and a parent does not have employment, it may be necessary for that parent to request that the court modify the child support obligation to reflect the current situation.

Can I Enforce an Out-of-State Child Support Order in Arizona?

Yes, you can enforce the out-of-state child support order. It will be necessary for you to register the out-of-state child support order with the Arizona courts, so that Arizona has jurisdiction and you have an Arizona case number. To “register” your case means that you will need a certified copy of your domestic relations file from the other state and file it with the Arizona courts.

When Does My Child Support Obligation End?

Child support orders apply to any child under the age of 18, or a child who is still attending high school or an equivalency program. Also, if a child is mentally or physically handicapped, the judge may order that support payments continue indefinitely, past the age of majority (18).

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