What are the Arizona Child Support Guidelines?

Arizona Child Support Q&A

  1. What are the Arizona Child Support Guidelines and why does the Court use them? The Arizona Child Support Guidelines provide the Court a means of determining Child Support and also lay the foundation for procedural rules governing Child Support in Arizona. The goal of the formula used by Guidelines to calculate Child Support is to approximate the amount of money that would have spent on the children if the parents and the children were all living together, and then to allocate that amount between the parents to ensure each parent pays his or her proportionate share. Additionally, the Guidelines provide uniformity by making child support order consistent for people in similar circumstances, which ultimately promotes settlement because the parents are given a clear indication of what the Court will order at trial. Finally, the Guidelines are reviewed and updated every four years to provide for changes in the economy and the cost of child rearing.
  2. When do the Guidelines apply? The Guidelines apply to any action brought under A.R.S. Title 25, including: divorce proceedings, establishment proceedings, paternity/maternity proceedings, and modification proceedings. The Guidelines also apply to juvenile court proceedings where Child Support is being established or modified.
  3. What children do the Guidelines apply to? The Guidelines apply to all natural children and to all adopted children. The Guidelines do not apply to step-children.
  4. Is there an exception to the Guidelines? If the application of the Guidelines in a particular case would be inappropriate or unjust, the Court must deviate from the Guidelines. For example, a deviation from the Guidelines might be inappropriate if the amount of Child Support is nominal (very little). Conversely, the Guidelines might be inappropriate when the parties’ combined incomes substantially exceeds $20,000/month because the formula used to calculate Child Support is capped at a that monthly amount.
  5. If I qualify for Child Support, does that help my case for spousal maintenance? While spousal maintenance affects child support, the fact that you are entitled to child support does not automatically entitle you to spousal maintenance. Generally speaking, the more spousal maintenance you receive, the less Child Support you will be awarded. As a result, if spousal maintenance is an issue in your case, the Court must first determine spousal maintenance before it can calculate Child Support. However, spousal maintenance is governed by a completely different set of rules (See A.R.S. §25-319) than Child Support so it is entirely possible to qualify for Child Support while not qualifying for spousal maintenance. If you have questions about Spousal Maintenance, I highly recommend seeking the advice of an attorney.
  6. If I provide support for my step-children, will that be considered in the Court’s calculation? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The Court views support provided for step-children as voluntary (you are under no legal obligation to provide for them) and so will not consider this in calculating Child Support.
  7. What if I don’t pay the same amount for daycare each month, what number should I put into the calculator? The amounts used to calculate child support should be annualized, meaning that the yearly amount is divided by twelve months. This is a common issue for teachers, who often pay daycare during the school year, but not during the summer. As a result, the correct adjustment for daycare would not be actual monthly amount they pay, but rather their yearly daycare cost divided by twelve. For example, let’s say a teacher pays $300 per month for day care for nine months of the year. To calculate the appropriate daycare cost for child support, that teacher would perform the following calculation: ($300 X 9)/12 = $225/month. Many people miss this and give the other parent too much credit.
  8. How long does child support last for? The duration of Child Support is governed by A.R.S. §25-320 and §25-501, except as provided for in A.R.S. §25-1304. When a Child Support Order is entered, the Court will establish a presumptive termination date for Child Support. Generally speaking, the presumptive termination date is the last day of the month of the the 18th birthday of the youngest child included in the order. If the Court determines the child will not complete high school by age 18, the presumptive termination date will be the last day of the child’s anticipated graduation month or age 19, whichever occurs first. Unless evidence to the contrary is presented, the Court presumes the child will graduate in the month of May after completing 12th grade.
  9. If there is a presumptive termination date, do I still need to file something to stop child support? You would be surprised how often the presumptive termination date passes without the support clearinghouse noticing. If Child Support is being taken out of your paycheck, this can be particularly frustrating. The only way to ensure Child Support is properly terminated is to file the appropriate paperwork with the Court.
  10. If I have overpaid Child Support, can I be reimbursed? The good news is you can be reimbursed for overpaid Child Support. The bad news is that seeking reimbursement is a complex ordeal that definitely requires an attorney to make sure it is done properly.