Going through a divorce can be an expensive and emotionally draining process, not just for the parties involved but also for the children. One of the most important things you can do as their parent is to ensure that your children are taken care of financially, including figuring out how to determine fair child support.
This guide will help you understand how Arizona child support works and how you can protect your kids by receiving the financial support they need during the divorce proceedings and beyond.
How Arizona Child Support Works
Arizona follows the income shares model developed by the Child Support Guidelines Project of the National Center for State Courts. Under this model’s guidelines, the child receives approximately the same support they would get if the parents were still married. Each parent contributes a proportionate amount to that support.
The state follows this model in compliance with state and federal laws intended to make child support fair and reasonable to all parties involved. Child support laws and policies apply to both adopted children and natural children whether born in or out of wedlock, and this obligation supersedes all other financial obligations.
What does the income shares model mean for you? It depends on whether you are the non-custodial parent or the custodial parent. The custodial parent — sometimes called residential parent — is the parent who spends the most time with the child during the year, even if that is just one day more than the non-custodial parent.
For the Non-Custodial Parent
When determining the fair child support payment from the non-custodial parent, the process is relatively straightforward.
First, you’ll need to calculate your child support obligation using the Arizona child support calculator. This calculator takes into account both parents’ incomes, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the children.
Once you have your obligation amount, you’ll need to make payments to the custodial parent or to the Arizona Child Support Payment Center. Non-custodial parents typically make payments on a monthly basis.
If you have any questions about how child support works in Arizona, please contact the Arizona Child Support Division for more information.
For the Custodial Parent
In Arizona, both parents are required to financially support their children. Usually, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. In certain circumstances, however, that norm does not apply. As the custodial parent, you should not assume that any child support you receive will cover all or even 50% of the actual cost of raising your child.
What if you share custody?
Almost always, one parent will still pay child support.
What is the Average Child Support Payment for One Child in Arizona?
In Arizona, the average child support payment is $430 per month for one child. This gross number does little to address your particular circumstance, however, because the state determines child support based on a table of basic support obligations.
This table indicates that a parent earning under $750 a month in combined adjusted gross income could pay just $174 for one child. A parent earning $20,000 a month could pay $3,815 for six children. These amounts can vary depending on the income of the non-custodial parent, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and other factors.
What Other Factors are Considered When Calculating a Parent’s Income for Child Support Purposes?
Many factors are considered when calculating a parent’s income for child support purposes. These include the parent’s employment situation, their hourly wage, and whether or not they receive any other forms of income.
Additionally, the number of children the parent has and the custody arrangement can also affect how much child support is owed. Arizona also implements an older child adjustment, which adds 10% to the basic support obligation for children over age 12.
The best way to determine how much child support you may owe is to use the child support calculator on the Arizona judicial branch’s website.
What Counts as Income for Child Support in Arizona?
Arizona considers more than traditional employment wages when assessing child support obligations. The state also looks at income such as:
- Capital gains
- Dividends and interest
- Severance pay and pensions
- Recurring gifts
- Unemployment benefits
- Spousal maintenance
- Workers’ compensation benefits
Child support itself is not considered part of your income, however, since it is money owed to the child and not to the non-custodial parent. SSI, TANF, and other public assistance funds also do not count toward your income when calculating child support.
What Expenses Does Child Support Cover in Arizona?
In Arizona, child support covers a wide range of expenses related to raising a child. These expenses can include medical and dental care, child care, education, and extracurricular activities.
Will Your Child Support Cover Your Children’s Financial Needs?
Child support can help cover basic necessities, medical care, education, child care, transportation, extracurricular activities, entertainment, and higher education expenses. It probably will not cover all your child’s costs since the non-custodial parent is not required to pay for 100% of your child’s expenses.
Fair and equitable child support will help offset your children’s financial needs, though. How do you calculate what your budget should be for your children?
How to Calculate Total Household Expenses
In order to assess the amount of child support you need to pay in Arizona, you first need to determine your total household expenses. This includes all of your monthly bills as well as any other costs associated with caring for your children. Once you have a total figure, you can then use a child support calculator to determine how much your child support payment will offset those costs.
To keep payments consistent, all expenses are annualized and then divided by 12. For example, if childcare costs $100 a month during the nine months of school and $400 a month during the summer, then the annualization looks like this:
9 (months) x $100 = $900
3 (months) x $400 = $1200
Childcare Total – $2100
$2100 / 12 (months in a year) = $175 per month
How to Calculate Health Insurance Costs
In Arizona, at least one parent is required to provide health insurance for their children when it is available at a reasonable rate. The cost of health insurance will be taken into account when calculating child support.
If the child’s health insurance is broken out, the court uses that number. If it is not broken out, then the court prorates the cost according to the number of people covered under the policy.
How to Calculate Educational or Childcare Expenses
To qualify, childcare costs must be paid to an individual not claimed as a dependent on federal income taxes. The costs must be accrued so the parent can work or seek employment. In addition, the costs must be appropriate to the family’s financial situation.
If parents decide to send their child to private school, then both parties must agree to split the tuition or the custodial parent must pay the full cost. The court will not mandate that a non-custodial parent pay for private school tuition to which they have not agreed.
How to Calculate Your Expected Contribution from the Other Parent
The first step is to visit the child support calculator on the Arizona State Supreme Court website. You will need to enter some basic information about yourself and the other parent, including your income and the number of children you have. You will also need to identify who has custody of each child.
After filling out the form, you can then click on a button that says calculate the amount owed per month and it will provide a breakdown of how much child support should be paid each month in order to cover all of your children’s needs.
Frequently Asked Questions about child support in Arizona
Does child support increase if salary increases in Arizona?
If you have a change in income, it may affect the amount of child support you pay or receive. If your salary increases, it is possible that the amount of child support you pay will increase as well. However, if your income decreases, you may be able to request a modification to your child support order.
Is child support based on gross or net income in Arizona?
Arizona bases its child support guidelines on gross (not net) income. The state defines income broadly, and parents should include virtually all income sources other than child support or public assistance when calculating the amount owed.
When does child support end in Arizona?
Child support payments usually end on the last day of the month in which the youngest child on the order has their 18th birthday. If the child has not yet graduated from high school, then payments typically continue through high school graduation or until their 19th birthday, whichever comes first.
Are child support payments tax deductible in Arizona?
Child support payments aren’t tax-deductible or taxed on your Arizona state taxes. When calculating your gross income, do not include these payments. Talk to your tax preparer or financial advisor if you have questions about this policy.
What are child support deviations?
While the State of Arizona has established certain guidelines and policies that govern child support, circumstances may alter cases. If circumstances warrant it, therefore, the court might hear your case if you ask for a deviation from the child support formula.
Generally, the court will only entertain situations in which the non-custodial parent’s circumstances are expected to change significantly for at least six months. For example, unemployment lasting more than 90 days could affect on a parent’s capacity to pay child support for six months or more.