Arizona child support is governed by a set of guidelines called the “Arizona Child Support Guidelines.” These guidelines establish a formula which Arizona judges are required by statute to follow in calculating child support unless they make specific findings on approved criteria that support their deviating from the guideline child support amount.
Variables Affecting Child Support
There are several variables that affect the amount of child support under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. These variables include, among others, the parents’ gross monthly incomes, the cost of medical insurance for the child, the cost of child care for the child, and the parenting time schedule. In cases where the parents’ gross monthly incomes are relatively high, the child support amount will also usually be higher than in a low-income case. Where parents share equal time with their child, there may be little or no child support ordered because, in such a situation, each parent spends all or a significant portion of his proportionate share of the child support obligation directly on the child when the child is in his care.
For divorce and family law attorneys, calculating child support under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines formula is fairly straightforward. When disputes arise in child support cases, the disputes are rarely about the child support calculation formula itself. Rather, the disputes center on the variables and figures which should be used in the formula to calculate support.
For example, when a parent is self-employed, that parent’s true income is often contested. The self-employed parent may report a certain income from self-employment, but the other parent will often argue that the self-employed parent is under-reporting his income. That parent may argue that the self-employed parent’s income is much higher than he is reporting due to cash revenue which never hits the books, trade or barter income, or running personal expenses through the business.
Relationship to Parenting Time
Another variable that significantly affects child support calculations is the parenting time schedule. A parent who has the children in her care the majority of the time will likely receive child support from the other parent. Similarly, the parent who owes child support will reduce his obligation by seeking and obtaining more parenting time. Unfortunately, child support is sometimes the primary reason a parent seeks to maximize his or her parenting time with the children.
As with other issues, judges decide child support cases based on evidence. It is critical that parents in child support litigation develop and properly present evidence on each variable they urge the Court to use in the calculation. Evidence regarding incomes includes pay stubs, W-2’s, tax returns, profit and loss statements, and other self-employment records. With an unemployed or underemployed parent, sometimes a vocational evaluation by an expert witness is required. As to the other variables, parents must show the Court documents to prove the cost of medical insurance for the children, the cost of child care expenses, and the other variables affecting the child support calculation. Before proceeding with a court hearing on child support, parents are well-advised to retain experienced and competent family law attorneys to represent them.