Although paid to the custodial parent, Arizona child support technically supports the child. The reason? Until they reach the age of 18, children have a legal entitlement to financial support from their parents. An order of child support is a requirement issued by a judge. Failure to follow the order results in penalties.
Some common, and not so common, questions on Arizona Child Support.
Q: How is the amount of Arizona child support determined?
A: The Supreme Court adopted new Arizona Child Support Guidelines in 2015. The “calculator” considers a wide variety of factors, each of which helps determine the child support amount to be paid. These include the number of children, their ages, and the percentage of time spent with each parent. Additionally, the calculator considers the income of both the custodial and non-custodial parent as well as monthly support (both child and spousal) received and paid by both parents, from this relationship as well as prior relationships.
Finally, it looks at costs paid by both parents toward daycare and medical insurance. Arizona law calculates the amount required to support the child or children if the parents lived together to arrive at a child support amount, and the calculator helps determine which portion of this amount is payable by each parent.
Q: How many fathers versus mothers pay Arizona child support?
A: This answer is not as black and white as the question indicates. Overall, fathers pay more in child support. Nationwide, fathers in 2013 paid $19.4 billion in child support, 67.5 percent of the $28.7 billion they owed. Mothers paid $3.1 billion, or 74.9 percent of the $4.2 billion they owed.
One reason non-custodial mothers pay less than non-custodial fathers is the differences in income. The income of both parents goes into calculating child support orders. The average household income of custodial fathers not receiving child support obligations is $52,000 annually. For mothers in this situation, household income is literally half this amount at $26,000. Additionally, 32 percent of custodial mothers live below the poverty line compared to 16 percent of custodial fathers.
Q: Is health insurance part of Arizona child support, or is it separate?
A: Child support orders may include orders for health insurance coverage. If the custodial parent provides health insurance instead, such as through an employer’s benefits package, the court may order the non-custodial parent to pay a cash support amount to compensate this expense.
Q: How is Arizona child support paid?
A: In cases of court-ordered child support, the payor typically sends child support payments to the Support Payment Clearinghouse, which records the payment and issues a check to the payee. If the payor is employed, payments typically come via Wage Assignment (or Order of Assignment). The Wage Assignment goes to the employer with payment automatically deducted from the payor’s paycheck. The employer sends the payment to the Support Payment Clearinghouse, which then handles the payment as usual.
Wage Assignment takes effect about a month after being processed. During this time, the payor makes payments directly to the Support Payment Clearinghouse. If the payor changes jobs, he or she gives a copy of the Wage Assignment to the new employer and notifies the Clerk of the Superior Court and the Support Payment Clearinghouse, in writing, of the new employer’s information. Until the new Wage Assignment takes effect, the payor must make payments directly to the Support Payment Clearinghouse.
Q: Does Arizona child support always end at 18?
A: No, child support does not always end when the child turns 18. Exceptions include children unable to live independently due to either physical or mental disability, or children under the age of 19 and still attending high school or securing a GED.
Q: Do I have to establish paternity?
A: Legally establishing paternity gives the father the rights of privileges of a parent, while also providing rights for the child. These include rights to medical care, inheritance, and benefits such as social security. Genetic testing helps establish paternity, but it only does so if it reveals a 95 percent probability of paternity. The State of Arizona pays initially, with the alleged father agreeing to repay the amount if testing confirms paternity.
If the father lives in another state, established paternity crosses state lines. This also holds if paternity was established in a state other than Arizona. Finally, fathers may also voluntarily acknowledge paternity.
If the mother is unsure of the father’s identity, testing begins with the man on whom the mother provides the most information.
Q: Can I locate the non-custodial parent?
A: The Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) helps locate absent parents, custodial parents, non-custodial parents, and any member of a case. This includes income sources and medical insurance providers. DCSS does this to establish paternity or an order of support, or to enforce or modify an order of support. DCSS also locates parents in other states.
Q: Can I modify an existing child support order?
A: Yes, federal and state law allow modification of child support orders for those who qualify. Factors considered include current income of both parents and AZ child support guidelines; a substantial, continuing situation would change your order by 15 percent or more.
If the non-custodial parent of record actually houses the child, this merits review to modify a support order. Possible results include reducing the amount paid, or even receiving support.
Numerous situations qualify for a review request, including three years since the last review, an order that does not include medical support, and a significant change in income for either parent.
Q: I am a victim of domestic violence. Can I file for child support and still have protection from the non-custodial parent?
A: In some cases, child support cases can be labeled as “non-disclosure” cases. This allows working your case without identifying information to protect you and your child(ren). Your information does not appear on court orders, including your address.
To establish this, you must supply certain records, including arrest or police reports, court orders, criminal records, medical records, social service or governmental records, sworn statements from witnesses, and any record establishing that conception resulted from either sexual assault or incest.
Q: My grandchild lives with me. A child support order already exists but is payable to my child. How can I collect child support for my grandchild?
A: Caretakers may get an order of support through a Transfer of Support Rights, which transfers support payments to the caretaker. You must prove you housed the child for at least 30 consecutive days. DCSS may retain payments if you receive public assistance. Both parents receive notification of the transfer. If the child leaves your custody, notify DCSS to end the transfer.
Q: Can I receive services from the Division of Arizona Child Support Services (DCSS) even if I have a private attorney?
A: Yes, you can. As long as you keep DCSS informed of any actions your attorney files, you may use DCSS even when you have an attorney.
Q: Is failure to pay child support a criminal matter?
A: Courts determine whether failure to pay Arizona child support is a crime. You must prove that the non-custodial parent knows he or she has an obligation, has the resources to pay, and refuses to do so.
Q: How is payment on arrears determined?
A: Unpaid support payments lead to a “payment on arrears” amount being added to the regular support amount. Determining the additional amount depends on how many months went unpaid.
- At least two months but less than six months: may be an additional 25 percent of the current support amount
- At least six months but less than 12 months: may be an additional 33 percent of the current support amount
- Twelve months or more: may be an additional 33 percent of the current support amount, or an amount determined by the court, whichever is greater
Q: What happens if the non-custodial parent files for bankruptcy? Does it mean that he or she no longer has to pay child support?
No, bankruptcy does not negate Arizona child support obligations. However, it may affect payment on arrears.
Q: Can the government intercept federal income tax returns to pay past due child support?
A: Yes, federal law allows interception of federal tax refunds to pay past due child support. The Federal Tax Refund Offset Program applies tax refunds to these overdue payments. Arrears in excess of $500 lasting longer than three months qualify for an IRS refund intercept. Arrears owed to the state must exceed $150 and be three months overdue. Federal refunds first go to repay money owed to the State.
Q: Does a parent who refuses to pay child support lose visitation rights?
A: Arizona Child support and child custody are two separate legal issues. If the non-custodial parent does not pay required child support, he or she cannot be denied court-ordered visitation. The court may modify an order, but severing it is unlikely. If the parent owed the payments prevents visitation, he or she risks the non-custodial parent requesting, and gaining, a modified custody agreement.
The custodial parent may seek restitution in other ways, such as wage assignment. Other penalties include negative credit and the State refusing to renew a professional or driver’s license.
Child custody laws are complex and missed details in the finale decree can adversely affect you for a very long time. During this emotional time you need an experienced and compassionate child custody attorney. Edwards & Petersen, PLC are experts in child custody and you need them on your side.