Some General Guidelines for Determining Child Support

Arizona courts follow the Arizona Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”). The information below, from the Guidelines, only addresses a few of the issues that can arise when determining a parent’s child support obligation.

The Guidelines estimate the total amount of child support that a child’s parents would have spent if they were living together, with each parent contributing his or her proportionate share of the total amount of support. Child support obligations take priority over all other financial obligations. In certain circumstances (such as the parties’ agreement), courts can deviate from the Guidelines when ordering a parent to pay child support.The Guidelines “apply to all natural children, whether born in or out of wedlock, and to all adopted children.” Consequently, a court will not consider a parent’s support of stepchildren when determining the amount of child support a parent must pay. Further, a court will only consider the income of a person who has a legal duty to support a child under the Guidelines, which means should you or your spouse remarry, a court will not consider the new spouse’s income when determining the amount of a parent’s child support obligation.

Several factors go into determining parents’ gross income for child support purposes. Usually, a court will not attribute income beyond what a parent would have earned from full-time employment. As the Guidelines state, “Each parent should have the choice of working additional hours through overtime or at a second job without increasing the child support award.” If a parent historically earned such income from a regular schedule and anticipates that he or she will continue to earn it in the future, however, the court may consider it.

The court may also attribute income to an unemployed parent or a parent working below his or her full earning capacity if the parent has reduced their income by choice and not for a reasonable cause. The Guidelines give examples of when it may not be appropriate for a court to attribute income to a parent working below their full earning capacity: when the parent is mentally or physically disabled; when the parent is taking reasonable career or occupational training to learn basic skills or improve their earning capacity; when a natural or adopted child has “[u]nusual emotional or physical needs” that require the parent to stay home; or when the parent is currently receiving TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families).

If you’d like to discuss these child-support issues or others with an attorney, please contact The Carroll Law Firm at (623) 551-9366.


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