Who Pays Child Support When You Get Divorced in Arizona?

by Elizabeth Rayne
Child support is often paid to the custodial parent.

Child support is often paid to the custodial parent.

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In Arizona, both parents are required to provide financial support for their children. However, whether or not one parent pays child support depends on the income of each parent as well as how much time each parent spends with the child. If circumstances change, either parent may ask the court to change the child support order.

Child Support and Income Overview

Arizona utilizes the income shares model, meaning that courts calculate child support in a way that provides the child with the same amount of financial support he would have received if his parents were still together. Toward this end, courts consider the gross income of both parents to determine the basic support obligation. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed, the court may make the calculation based on what the parent would be earning if he were working. Gross income generally includes all money received by each parent, excluding public benefits such as food stamps. The court will also subtract child support payments from other relationships from gross income.

Basic Support Obligation

After each parent's gross income is calculated, the court will add their incomes together to come up with the combined gross income. Based on the combined income and number of children, the basic support obligation is calculated by referring to the state's Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations. The basic support obligation may be adjusted for medical, educational and child care costs. Medical expenses may include both the child's share of health insurance and payments made for necessary uninsured medical procedures. Additionally, the court may adjust the amount based on the unique needs of any disabled or gifted children.

Percentage of Income and Parenting Time

Once the basic support obligation is determined, the court will consider what portion of income the noncustodial parent contributes to the combined income. If the noncustodial parent earns 75 percent of the income, for example, she will pay 75 percent of the basic support obligation to the custodial parent, while it is assumed that the custodial parent pays his share of support by taking care of the child. The court will adjust the support obligation based on the amount of parenting time each parent has with the child, meaning the parent's child support obligation may be lowered based on the number of days he spends with the child per year. Further, when parents have equal custody and spend approximately the same amount of time with the child, a parent typically only receives support if she makes less money than the other parent, otherwise neither parent receives support.

Modification

If circumstances have substantially and continuously changed since the time of the original child support order, or at least three years have passed, either parent may ask the court to change the order. The court may change the order if the income of either parent has significantly changed, as a result of losing a job or getting a large promotion, for example. Modification may also be awarded if health insurance costs change or if one of the parents becomes ill. Parents may file a modification request with the court that originally awarded support or the Arizona Division of Child Support Enforcement.