How do I get child support?

Basic Arizona Child Support Q & A

  1. What is child support?

Child support is an amount of money that one parent pays to the other parent for the care of the child(ren).

  1. How do I get child support?

In Arizona, there are a couple of ways you can get child support. If you are going through a divorce and there are children, child support will be awarded to one of the parents. You can file a Petition to Establish Child Support if you are not married. You can also go through the Department of Economic Security to have them help you obtain child support.  

  1. Am I guaranteed child support?

Not necessarily. Not every parent is awarded child support. There are a number of factors the court will use in calculating whether you or the other parent receive it.

  1. What factors does the court use in calculating child support?

The court will look at how many children you have, their ages, and who they primarily reside with. The court will also look at both parent’s incomes, if a parent is receiving spousal maintenance or paying it, as well as other income. Other factors considered are costs for childcare, health insurance costs, and any extraordinary costs for the child, such as private schools or special health related costs. Those factors will be entered into the child support calculator, which will determine the amount one of the parents will pay.

  1. Once an amount is calculated, how do I pay it or receive it?

Child support should be paid by an income withholding order through the Clearinghouse. This language should be laid out in your child support court order. An income withholding order is where the payment is automatically taken out of a parent’s check and sent through the clearinghouse. If there is no income withholding order or a parent is self employed or not working, then the paying parent should send a check directly through the clearinghouse. Any payments made directly to the other parent can be counted as gifts and not towards child support payments.

  1. Can my spouse and I agree that neither of us will pay child support?

Not really. Because child support is for the child, usually there is no way to agree to not pay it. The court will usually order a parent to pay it. However, the court does allow for a deviation from the calculated amount. For example, according to the calculator, a parent may owe $500 a month in child support. The paying parent wants to pay more, however. The parties can agree to an upward deviation of that amount. The parents can also agree to a downward deviation in certain situations, as well. If the calculated amount will only be $20 a month, it makes sense to deviate to $0. There are always exceptions, but keep in mind that you need a very good reason why neither parent should pay.

  1. Can I modify the child support amount?

Yes. Either the receiving parent or paying parent can modify the amount. This most often happens if a parent has a pay increase or decrease, or if health expenses have changed, or if one of the children is no longer a minor.

  1. Is there a law on when child support ends?

Child support will end upon a child turning 18 or graduating from high school, whichever is later. There is no law that requires a parent to continue paying for a child past that time, even if the child is going to college. The only exception to this is if the child has a disability and will still be dependent on a parent.