Arizona Child Custody and Support: Initial Orders and Modifications

When a couple decides to end their relationship, whether married or not, there are many issues that will need to be decided as part of the break-up or dissolution of the marriage. Assets and debts will need to be divided, and this is often a struggle for parties as they go through the process. If the couple has had children together, parents often find the child custody and support process to be emotionally draining.

While no parent wants his or her child to be caught in the middle, custody decisions are not easy for the court. Arizona uses the “best interests of the child” factors to determine custody and visitation rights of the parties. Noncustodial parents may receive parenting time so that they may remain an essential part of the child’s life, but no matter the decisions handed down by the court, parents will still need to play a role in the financial support of the child.

Child support amounts are set by statutory guidelines based upon the income of the parents. The formula established by the legislature was designed to cut down on the number of contested child support cases. The specific amount determined by the guidelines would be put toward the care of the child, including childcare costs and other expenses.

Support obligations may run until the child turns 18 or finishes high school. Parties may also wish to decide how to handle any additional educational expenses for the child as part of any support settlement agreement. For parties that have never married, paternity may be another issue that needs to be resolved before any decisions regarding custody or support will be determined.

A parent’s income is often one of the more heavily contested issues of a child support case. Unfortunately, parties may try to conceal income in order to pay lower support amounts. It is crucial to have an experienced Arizona family law attorney examine the financial information available to help present a clear picture to the court.

Falling Behind on Support Payments?

Once the support obligations have been defined, it is up to the parties to make their payments in a timely manner. If a parent falls behind, there are rules in place that permit the state to ensure that these payments are made. In Arizona, some of the ways the state may try to obtain back support include garnishing of wages, withholding of income tax refunds or placing liens on the property of the parent who is behind on payments. Jail time is also possible for those who do not meet their support obligations.

Arizona also has a Child Support Settlement Program available. This program allows those with past-due child support obligations to become current. A lump-sum payment may be made to catch up on past-due payments, which stops interest from accruing. Additionally, the program may help parents stay current on their payments, providing a great benefit to all parties involved. Parents who are owed support will not have to spend time and money trying to get the financial support that they are entitled to.

Modification of Support Orders

There is usually a reason why someone has fallen behind in child support payments. In this difficult economy, many individuals have lost their jobs or seen their incomes drastically reduced. Many people have had to move to different states to find work, making it more difficult for them to spend time with the child, which can raise expenses for the parent who has been granted custody.

A prior order for support may no longer be possible because a parent may not have the financial means or abilities to meet his or her obligations. However, once a child support order has been entered it can be very difficult to change.

Parents in this situation may request a modification of the court’s child support order. The parent will need to show a significant and continuing change that requires the order to be revisited. In many situations, the court will hold a hearing to determine if the order in place will need to be modified. If the court feels that there are significant and continuing circumstances present, it may change the support order in place.

If you have questions regarding an initial or modification of a child custody or child support order, contact an experienced attorney in your area to discuss your concerns. Addressing the issues as soon as they arise can help you ensure that your child receives all the support that he or she needs.