What is Child Support?
In simple terms, child support is financial assistance paid or received by one or both of the parents for the custodial expenses and care for the child(ren). For a more detailed answer we will refer to: A.R.S. § 25-320(A): "In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support, the court may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child, born to or adopted by the parents, to pay an amount reasonable and necessary for support of the child, without regard to marital misconduct."
How is Child Support Calculated?
There are forms and calculations that help determine the amount considered. Some people think that the child support calculation is based solely on the child(ren)'s need of care or expenses. In reality there are many factors that are considered. As we continue to examine A.R.S. § 25-320, subsection D states:
D. The supreme court shall establish guidelines for determining the amount of child support. The amount resulting from the application of these guidelines is the amount of child support ordered unless a written finding is made, based on criteria approved by the supreme court, that application of the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust in a particular case. The supreme court shall review the guidelines at least once every four years to ensure that their application results in the determination of appropriate child support amounts. The supreme court shall base the guidelines and criteria for deviation from them on all relevant factors, considered together and weighed in conjunction with each other, including:
1. The financial resources and needs of the child.
2. The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent.
3. The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the child lived in an intact home with both parents to the extent it is economically feasible considering the resources of each parent and each parent's need to maintain a home and to provide support for the child when the child is with that parent.
4. The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child's educational needs.
5. The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.
6. The medical support plan for the child. The plan should include the child's medical support needs, the availability of medical insurance or services provided by the Arizona health care cost containment system and whether a cash medical support order is necessary.
7. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
8. The duration of parenting time and related expenses.
Are Child Support Orders only Valid for Minor Children?
Although it is typical that child support orders are valid until a child is 18, there are other factors that may prolong the order beyond the child's 18th birthday. This may include a child that is still in high school past the age of 18 as well as children with disabilities. Subsections E and F delve specifically into this matter:
E. Even if a child is over the age of majority when a petition is filed or at the time of the final decree, the court may order support to continue past the age of majority if all of the following are true:
1. The court has considered the factors prescribed in subsection D of this section.
2. The child has severe mental or physical disabilities as demonstrated by the fact that the child is unable to live independently and be self-supporting.
3. The child's disability began before the child reached the age of majority.
F. If a child reaches the age of majority while the child is attending high school or a certified high school equivalency program, support shall continue to be provided during the period in which the child is actually attending high school or the equivalency program but only until the child reaches nineteen years of age unless the court enters an order pursuant to subsection E of this section. Notwithstanding any other law, a parent paying support for a child over the age of majority pursuant to this section is entitled to obtain all records related to the attendance of the child in the high school or equivalency program.
Can Child Support be Retroactive?
Yes, and once again the statute shares specific information regarding this matter. A.R.S. § 25-320 (B)(C):
B. If child support has not been ordered by a child support order and if the court deems child support appropriate, the court shall direct, using a retroactive application of the child support guidelines to the date of filing a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support proceeding, the amount that the parents shall pay for the past support of the child and the manner in which payment shall be paid, taking into account any amount of temporary or voluntary support that has been paid. Retroactive child support is enforceable in any manner provided by law.
C. If the parties lived apart before the date of the filing for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support and if child support has not been ordered by a child support order, the court may order child support retroactively to the date of separation, but not more than three years before the date of the filing for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, maintenance or child support. The court must first consider all relevant circumstances, including the conduct or motivation of the parties in that filing and the diligence with which service of process was attempted on the obligor spouse or was frustrated by the obligor spouse. If the court determines that child support is appropriate, the court shall direct, using a retroactive application of the child support guidelines, the amount that the parents must pay for the past support of the child and the manner in which payments must be paid, taking into account any amount of temporary or voluntary support that has been paid.
So Where do I Start?
We often suggest that it is always good to start by speaking with an experienced divorce and family law attorney first. This will allow for the lawyer to assist you in the next steps including the gathering of any necessary information and paperwork as well to help in preparing petitions or other legal items.
At Duenas Eden Law, we are experienced and trusted divorce and family law attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona. Our Office in the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix, AZ and we serve the communities of Chandler, Tempe, Laveen, Mesa, Gilbert and San Tan Valley in child support and other family law matters. Call today: (480) 285-1735.
Duenas Eden remains open and available to help during these trying times. We are back in the office and offering videoconferencing appointments as much as possible. Per CDC guidelines, we are wearing masks and request that anyone visiting our offices do so as well. If you feel ill, please let us know and we will be happy to reschedule your appointment.