Arizona Child Support FAQs

arizona child support questions and answers
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.

If you have any Arizona child support questions that were not answered here, or just want some clarification on one that was, please leave a reply down below.

 

Comments 28

  1. What happens if I have custody of my child and this child decides to live with the other parent? Do I have to pay child support even if the court gave me full custody?

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  2. My daughter lives with me but her mother had custody of her. Do I still have to pay child support even though she lives with me?

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      Yes! Do not stop making court-ordered child support payments, even if you now house your child.
      However, you do have options, but you have to go back to court to make everything official. Whether your child now lives with you fulltime, or you and your ex split custody 50/50, you can either go back to court for a modification or request DCSS modify the order.
      In order to request a review, three years must have passed since the original court order, as well as any prior modification reviews. Read our blog posting on child support modification for full details.

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  3. How can I get someone to understand where I’m coming from when I’m paying child support for children that I’m taking care of? I modified my child support already but now having issues with child support taking my Medicare premiums? I am not getting a check because it’s counted as my income but it’s going to the father. I NEED HELP PLEASE!!

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      You don’t need to do anything to benefit from the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program. Arizona’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) submits information regarding delinquent child support directly to the IRS and Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. This includes the names and social security numbers of both parents, as well as the amount owed.
      If the noncustodial parent is in arrears AND filed a federal income tax return AND is owed a federal tax refund, his or her refund goes toward paying those past due monies. Your case is eligible for the tax refund offset program if you meet one of the following criteria:
      • Owed at least $150 and receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
      • Owed at least $500 and do not receive TANF
      DCSS may hold these funds for up to 180 days before disbursal. The noncustodial parent has 30 days to request review. If the noncustodial parent files a joint tax return, his or her spouse may file an Injured Spouse Claim to obtain his or her portion of the refund.
      Federal Tax Refund Offset Program
      Arizona’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS)

  4. If im paying child support in another country (Sonora, Mexico) from an child support order already and i got sentenced, Am I obligated to pay also in arizona state too? I receive an order from DCSS to establish paternity for my child. I already did that in Mexico in 2011. I got my residence card in 2014 and now live in Ca. I still do my monthly payments and have all my receipts. But know shes trying to do another order against me in arizona state. Is that legal?

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      There is a process by which you get certified copies of your orders from Mexico and register them with the Court here in Arizona and show that support is being paid. It is not a process that can be answered in a setting like this, but you need to get certified copies from the court in Mexico and have them translated. Your response to the petition to establish is important as well because you need to tell the court that another court has already established paternity.
      If you would like to set up a consultation to go over this in more detail, click here to schedule an appointment.

  5. It has taken 15 years for Maricopa County to take get serious about my ex never paying ANY child support. With interest he owes $49,000. He was arrested for contempt and sat in jail for a few months. Finally his sister agreed to pay his purge. His sister’s attorney told me in pre-trial conference that I would receive the all the purge money as payment toward arrearages. I have received nothing and have been looking to the internet for answers. DES website says they hold the purge money in a trust – but do not say for how long. Other sites say it goes toward fees for wage attachment and other court actions taken to make him pay (15 years worth of court actions would deplete purge money quickly). My question is what happens to purge money and will I ever receive any of the money he has paid monthly since his release? I feel like DES used me to fill their coffers. I would appreciate your expert opinion on this. Thank you.

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      I am sorry to hear that your journey has taken so long. To answer your question, the purge should be given to you. However, if it is a Title IV case where DES is enforcing the support order on your behalf, then they would be entitled to keep a portion of the purge to cover their costs of enforcement (things like filing fee, subpoena fees etc.). I would contact the child support clearing house to find out how much money is in the ATLAS account and make sure that your contact information is current with the clearing house and that you have direct deposit set up. If all of that is in order, then at the next review/enforcement hearing scheduled, tell the Court you have not received any of the purge funds and the Judge will help get to the bottom of the issue.

  6. I filed child support modification paperwork with the court and I sent the copies along with the court hearing date paper I received from the court restricted return receipt by certified mail to my ex and they refuse to sign for the paperwork.
    What happens now?

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      If they refused to sign for the envelope, then you will need to have him served personally by a process server. You will want to make sure you let the Judge know that he refused and ask that he be responsible for paying you back the cost of the process server.

  7. In my court order it states my ex is to claim 2 of our children on his taxes. If he has arrears is he still allowed to claim the children or am I then allowed to ? Is their a certain amount he has to be in arrears where I am then allowed to claim them or the amount does not matter? Please advise.

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      The specific language of your child support order is controlling. I would begin by reviewing the order in detail. The court may deny the other parent the right to claim a child if not paid in full during a given year, but again your child support order controls. I have included a link to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines for your reference.
      http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/31/GuideSched10072011.pdf

  8. My ex and I have a 10 year old daughter together. She lives with me and sees him 2-3 times per week. We never legally established custody. They only financial obligation he has paid in the past 4 years is child care of $150 per month. I have taken financial responsibility for everything else. Do I have a fair chance at getting child support?

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      Child Support can still be established even though the child is now 10 years old. The court cannot order back owed child support from birth to present, but they can order some. I would reach out to a family law attorney and schedule a free consultation to discuss this further along with the other issues the court will be forced to address regarding your child.

  9. My child is 28 and still paying same child support when my child was under 18 I did owe arrers should I file for modified support and will my payment go down Even tho I didn’t file years ago will the payments I made go to the arrears

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      Whether or not your payment is reduced depends on a number of factors. If you did not file to modify your child support after the child turned 18 or graduated from High School, you should do so immediately as not all of the monies are being applied to the arrears owed. The burden is on you to file to modify the ongoing support (the change is child is now eighteen or graduated) and so any monies being paid are applied directly to the arrears balance.

  10. My child support payments were recently reduced, but the change took some time to activate in the child support clearinghouse system. Because of the delay, several thousand dollars are owed back to me which had already been paid to my ex. I have been told that I have to wait for my girls to emancipate out of the system before I can request reimbursement for the overages which have already been paid out. Is this correct? Or can I request repayment now?

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      Thank you for your question. The answer will seem unfair, but under Arizona law, your obligation to pay must end. So, if that means your children turn 18 or graduate high school (whichever is later), you have to wait until that time. However, lets say that situation changes and the children live primarily with you and the other parent is ordered to pay support now, you could then file because your obligation to pay has tended. A.R.S. 25-527 addresses the issue. It is important to note that you must file your petition with the court for reimbursement within twenty four (24) months after the order terminates or you loose right to file for reimbursement. Here is a link to the statute. http://www.azleg.gov/ars/25/00527.htm

  11. I am in a relationship with a man who was recently served with papers to appear in court regarding back child support. A brief background: 1990 he and wife divorce with custody agreement for their 3 yr old daughter. He is paying child support as the non-custodial parent and has parenting time. 1993 the mother moves out of state without notice or a forwarding address. Unfortunately, instead of calling the court (or anyone) Dad spirals in to a debilitating depression leading to addiction. 1996 he gets it back together, meets a woman, gets married and has a baby. They remain together 14 years, during which he is a stay-at-home dad and she worked full-time for AZ DES. They divorced 2010 and I met him in 2011. Upon learning he had a lost child out there I set out to reunite them. And did so in 2015, including 5 grandchildren, and we have been helping her financially since. Nov 2016, he is served to appear in court and we went and discovered that he is $25,000 in arrears and owes $49,000 more in interest. Yet, in 26 YEARS, they never tried to contact him? Or enforce this sooner? I mean, it’s not as if he couldn’t be found, after all his next wife worked in THEIR offices. Really?
    So now I have a couple of questions.

    1) As we are substantially assisting the child (who is 30) financially each month, is it possible to petition the court to pass a judgement in her favor to received the arrears payments?

    I spoke to his daughter but she thought her mother had told her when she was young that she owed the state and that was why they didn’t receive any money from her father. If indeed that was the case,

    2) Can he request a statement listing all aid provided by the state to his ex that is now owed by him through support payments?

    I would question any organization 26 years behind, especially since the woman left the state and any monies owed would have accrued after her leaving. How does that work? In court, the Attorney General’s lawyer suggested a payment of $150/mo would satisfy them and the Judge said he thought a payment of $500/mo would be more suitable. With an net income of $1200/mo that seems a bit much, considering he covers about $350/mo for his daughter and grandchildren now.

    3) How many other 26 year old cases have been suddenly dusted off and pursued by a pressured DES in order to appease Doug Ducey’s “$100,000,000 campaign promise” plan? Also, how many of those cases are being issued higher than standard payment orders as a result of politics, not a justified interest in children’s well-being? They didn’t pursue this when it would have benefited the child but now when it benefits only the State, it is of dire importance.

    I am not saying he should pay his arrears, he should and will. However, his child should be the beneficiary, at long last, of the support not received previously. Furthermore, the State’s motives appear self-serving only in this instance. Who address issues such as that?

    Thank you for your patience and time. Any advice would be welcome.

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      Thank you for reaching out. While this forum is not the appropriate place to discuss specific details of his case, I can say that there is no statute of limitations (no cut off time) for when child support arrears can be collected upon. The person to whom the money was owed (Obligee) is the only person who can agree not to pursue collection on the child support orders. It may be worth the person who owes the money (Obligor) reaching out to that person and asking if her or she will waive the back owed funds or even just the interest, which would substantially reduce the balance owed. Arizona law places the burden on the person paying, when changes occur, to seek redress from the Court.

  12. My ex refuses to give address, and his boss claims him as an independent contractor because he also does side cash jobs . His boss always claims he paid less less than he did and is a friend if his families. He has not filed taxes in years . Would I need a lawyer, or is this an issue Des deals with. Also , how can I ensure the support is calculated on his true income ? Can they make him submitted bank record at least?

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      Rule 49 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure addresses what information each party is required to exchange, when issues of child support arise. This rule is automatic, meaning you should not have to request it from the other party. However, not all parties play by the rules and at that point the Arizona Rules of Family Procedure provide some other mechanisms for insuring the appropriate information is disclosed to determine his true gross income. The challenge becomes knowing which mechanisms to use and when. DES does require the parties to exchange documents, but given their case loads, it is hard for them to enforce the discovery rules or to even know if the the parties have exchanged the appropriate information, until minutes before the hearing is to take place. It is always best to be proactive before hand rather than reactionary at the time of the hearing.

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