Child support in Arizona is calculated using a formula based upon an Income Shares Model that is set forth in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Pursuant to this model, the total child support amount approximates the amount that would have been spent on the children if the parents and children were living together. Each parent contributes his or her proportionate share of the total child support amount. The court may order either parent owing a duty of support to a child born to the parents to pay an amount reasonable and necessary for support of the children.

How is Child Support in Arizona Calculated?

The child support obligation has priority over all other financial obligations. The calculation is derived from a series of factors which includes gross income of both parties, amounts paid for health insurance, amounts paid for childcare, and the amount of parenting time each party has with the children. Parents have an ongoing obligation to support their children until a child reaches eighteen (18) years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, but not beyond age nineteen.

Child support is modifiable upon a substantial and continuing change in financial circumstances.

Child support is required to be paid through the support payment clearinghouse for record-keeping purposes.

Who Decides How Much Child Support is Paid?

In response to federal legislation, each state has adopted official child support guidelines. To receive federal funding, each state is required to have a standardized system for determining child support. These “guidelines” establish the method for calculating child support in each case and are designed to ensure consistency and predictability in child support amounts. The Arizona Child Support Guidelines use a formula to determine the proper amount of child support that considers each party’s monthly income, the cost of health insurance and daycare, and the time spent with each parent. In Arizona, it is mandatory that court’s use the guidelines, however, the court or parties may elect to deviate from the guidelines so long as there are specific legitimate reasons for doing so.

What Happens if a Parent does not Pay Court-Ordered Child Support?

Various enforcement mechanisms exist to compel parents to comply with their support obligations. The court has the power to hold a party in contempt for violating a support order and may order said parent be incarcerated until s/he pays. The non-payor must be allowed an opportunity to “purge” the contempt, meaning to comply with the order. But if s/he does not and if the parent has the apparent ability to pay, the court has the power send them to jail until s/he pays. In addition, many states have criminal penalties for failing to pay child support. Congress also has enacted many enforcement mechanisms, creating greater collaboration between federal and state governments. These include suspension of driver’s licenses and professional licenses, seizure of tax refunds, seizure of bank accounts and investment accounts, and even publishing the name and picture of the non-paying parent on posters and in newspapers.

How Long is a Parent Expected to Pay Child Support?

In Arizona, a parent has the legal obligation to pay child support until his/her child reaches 18 years of age or graduates high school, whichever comes later, but not beyond age 19. In other words, if a child is still attending full-time school when s/he reaches age 18, support would contineu until the child graduates high school or turns 19, whichever occurs later. Courts may order a support obligation continue after age 18 or 19 for a child whio is disabled and unikely to be able to be self-supporting.