Even after divorce or separation both parents are required to financially support their mutual children. Child support is normally ordered by the court during divorce or child custody proceedings. Courts order child support to ensure the children’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs are met. Child support is even ordered in cases where one parent has no parenting time with the children.
Child support is designed to cover expenses including:
- basic necessities for food, clothing, and shelter
- medical expenses
- transportation and travel
- extracurricular activities
Courts may order child support during divorce or legal separation. Child support is normally discussed when determining legal decision-making and parenting time during divorce cases. Child support may also be requested or modified after a divorce or separation is finalized. If parents are unmarried, child support may be ordered when parents physically separate. In other cases, unmarried parents who never lived together may request child support.
When the court decides which parent will pay child support and in what amount, the court will create a child support order. The child support order will include the following:
- which parent pays child support
- how much the payment is every payment period
- how often the payment will be made
- which parent receives child support
In addition to the amount of time each parent spends with the children during the month, courts must also consider the income and earning potential of each parent. The Supreme Court of Arizona provides child support guidelines judges must follow.
In general, each parent’s salary is used, along with the number of days the children will be in their care. Most child support payments are calculated as a percentage of the estimated monthly earnings from the paying parent. These amounts may be adjusted as facts and circumstances change over time.
The parent paying child support will normally be ordered to send child support payments to Maricopa County’s Support Payment Clearinghouse. Parents may also make child support payments online. Sending child support payments through the court ensures payments are properly record. Parents receiving child support may receive a debit card loaded with prepaid child support or choose to have child support payments direct deposited in their personal checking or savings account.
A court may order the employer of the parent who pays child support to automatically deduct child support from their paycheck. Income withholding orders do not happen automatically and steps must be taken to ensure the employer receives the correct information. Income withholding orders are an easy way to ensure child support payments are made on time.
Income withholding orders normally about a month to go into effect. In other cases, income withholding orders are not available, for example, when a parent is self-employed or owns their own business. Regardless of the type of employment a parent has, child support orders must be paid.
Modifying Child Support
As facts and circumstances change over time, one or both parents may want to change the child support order. Either parent may file a Petition to Modify Child Support with the court. Both parents will then be required to appear before a judge.
The parent paying child support may request to lower the amount of child support they pay each month. The parent receiving child support may request the court increase the amount ordered for child support. In some instances, the child support order needs modification when a minor child turns eighteen.
The judge assigned to your child support hearing will enter a final order. Hiring a family law attorney to assist you in establishing or modifying a child support order may help you provide the facts the judge needs to give you what you want.