Arizona Child Support Definitions
The Arizona Child Support Guidelines follow the Income Shares Model. The model was developed by the Child Support Guidelines Project of the National Center for State Courts. The total child support amount approximates the amount that would have been spent on the child(ren) if the parents and child(ren) were living together. Each parent contributes his/her proportionate share of the total child support amount.
Information regarding development of the guidelines, including economic data and assumptions upon which the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations is based, is contained in the June 29, 1995, report of Policy Studies, Inc., titled Economic Basis for Updated Child Support Schedule - State of Arizona.
Determination of the Gross Income of the Parents
NOTE: Terms such as "Gross Income" and "Adjusted Gross Income" as used in these guidelines do not have the same meaning as when they are used for tax purposes.
a. Gross income includes income from any source, and may include, but is not limited to, income from salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits (subject to Section 24), worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, gifts, prizes, and spousal maintenance. Cash value shall be assigned to in-kind or other non-cash benefits. Seasonal or fluctuating income shall be annualized. Income from any source which is not continuing or recurring in nature need not necessarily be deemed gross income for child support purposes. It is generally not expected that a parent will earn income greater than what would be earned from full-time employment.
b. Gross income does not include sums received as child support or benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs including, but not limited to, aid to families with dependent children, supplemental security income, food stamps and general assistance.
c. For income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation, gross income means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income. Ordinary and necessary expenses do not include amounts determined by the court to be inappropriate for determining gross income for purposes of child support.
d. Expense reimbursements or benefits received by a parent in the course of employment or self-employment or operation of a business shall be counted as income if they are significant and reduce personal living expenses.
e. If a parent is unemployed or working below full earning capacity, the court may consider the reasons. If earnings are reduced as a matter of choice and not for reasonable cause, the court may attribute income to a parent up to his or her earning capacity. In accordance with Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-320, income of at least minimum wage shall be attributed to a parent ordered to pay child support. If income is attributed to the parent receiving child support, appropriate child care expenses may also be attributed.
f. Only income of persons having a legal duty of support shall be treated as income under the guidelines. For example, income of a parent’s new spouse is not treated as income of that parent.
g. The court shall not take into account the impact of the disposition of marital property except as provided in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-320.A.6. ("...excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.") or to the extent that such property generates income to a parent.
h. The Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations is based on net income and converted to gross income for ease of application. The impact of income taxes has been considered in the Schedule.
Adjustments to Gross Income
a. The amount of court-ordered spousal maintenance actually paid and the amount of court- ordered child support of other children actually paid by the noncustodial parent or contributed by the custodial parent shall be deducted from the gross income of the paying or contributing parent. "Other children" means natural or adopted children who are not the subject of this particular child support determination.
b. Support of natural or adopted children not covered by a court order may be considered as an adjustment factor. Any adjustment will be made to gross income and the amount of any adjustment will be determined by a simplified application of the guidelines to determine the basic amount of support that would be ordered for the other children in question.
Determining the Adjusted Gross Income of the Parents
Adjusted Gross Income is gross income minus the adjustments provided in Section 5 of these guidelines. The Adjusted Gross Income for each parent shall be established. These amounts shall be added together. The sum is the Combined Adjusted Gross Income.
Determining the Basic Child Support Obligation
Locate the income closest to the parents’ Combined Adjusted Income figure on the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations and select the column for the number of children involved. This number is the Basic Child Support Obligation.
Determining the Total Child Support Obligation
To determine the Total Child Support Obligation, the court:
a. Shall add to the Basic Child Support Obligation the cost of the children’s medical insurance coverage. In determining the amount to be added, only the amount of the insurance cost attributable to the children subject of the support order shall be included. If coverage is applicable to other persons, the total cost shall be prorated by the number of persons covered.
If an adjustment is made for the cost of the children’s medical insurance coverage and that cost is paid by the parent ordered to pay child support, the amount of the adjustment added under this Section shall be subtracted from that parent’s proportionate share of the Total Child Support Obligation, as determined under Section 9, to arrive at the child support order.
An order for child support shall assign responsibility for providing medical insurance for the children who are the subject of the child support order. If medical insurance of comparable benefits and cost is available to both parents, the court should assign the responsibility to the parent having primary physical custody. The court shall also specify the percentage that each parent shall pay for any medical costs of the children which are not covered by insurance.
Both parents should use their best efforts to obtain services that are covered by the insurance. A parent who is entitled to receive reimbursement from the other parent for medical costs not covered by insurance shall, upon request of the other parent, provide receipts or other evidence of payments actually made.
b. May add to the Basic Child Support Obligation amounts for any of the following:
Child Care Costs:
Child care expenses that would be appropriate to the parents’ financial abilities and to the lifestyle of the child(ren) if the parents and child(ren) were living together.
A parent paying for child care may be eligible for a credit from federal tax liability for dependent children. Before adding child care costs to the Basic Child Support Obligation, the court may adjust this cost in order to apportion the benefit that the dependent tax credit will have to the parent incurring the child care costs. An adjustment of twenty-five percent may be deducted from total annual child care costs, up to maximum annual costs of $2,400 for one child or $4,800 for two or more children. If the annual costs for child care exceed the maximum limits, $50 or $100 per month, respectively, may be subtracted from the annualized monthly child care cost. Otherwise,
annual costs are multiplied by .0625 to arrive at the adjusted monthly child care costs.
Any adjustment for the payment of child care costs with pre-tax dollars shall be calculated in a similar manner. A percentage adjustment other than twenty-five percent may be utilized if proven by the parent paying the child care costs.
At lower income levels the head of household does not incur sufficient tax liability to benefit from the federal tax credit. No adjustment should be made where the income of the custodial parent is less than indicated on the following chart:
MONTHLY GROSS INCOME OF THE CUSTODIAL PARENT
Any reasonable and necessary expenses for attending private or special schools or necessary expenses to meet particular educational needs of a child, when such expenses are incurred by agreement of both parents or ordered by the court.
Older Child Adjustment:
The average expenditures for children age twelve or older exceed the average expenditures for all children by approximately ten percent. Therefore, the court may increase child support for a child who has reached the age of twelve years by an amount up to ten percent of the support shown on the Schedule. If the court chooses to make an adjustment, the following method of calculation shall be used.
Extraordinary Child Adjustment:
These guidelines are designed to fit the needs of most children. The court may increase the Basic Child Support Obligation to provide for the special needs of gifted or handicapped children.
Determining Each Parent’s Proportionate Share of the Total Child Support Obligation
The Total Child Support Obligation shall be divided between the parents in proportion to their Adjusted Gross Incomes. The obligation of each parent is computed by multiplying each parent’s share of the Combined Adjusted Gross Income by the Total Child Support Obligation.
Adjustment for Costs Associated with Visitation
Because the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations is based on expenditures for children in intact households, there is no consideration for costs associated with visitation. Accordingly, when proof establishes that visitation is or is expected to be exercised by the parent paying child support, an adjustment shall be made to that parent’s proportionate share of the Total Child Support Obligation.
To adjust for the costs of visitation, first determine the total amount of visitation indicated in a court order or parenting plan or by the expectation or historical practice of the parents. Using the following definitions, add together each period of visitation within twenty-four hours to arrive at the total number of visitation days per year.
a. "One day" means more than 12 continuous and consecutive hours or an overnight.
b. "One-half day" means greater than 4 and up to and including 12 continuous and consecutive hours.
c. "One-quarter day" means up to and including 4 continuous and consecutive hours.
For purposes of calculating visitation days, only the time spent by a child with the noncustodial parent is considered. Time that the child is in school or child care is not considered.
After determining the total number of visitation days, refer to the following Visitation Table. The left two columns of the Visitation Table set forth numbers of visitation days in increasingly higher ranges. "Reasonable" visitation or visitation consistent with available county visitation/access guidelines will likely fall within the range of days between 72 and 129. Adjacent to each range is an adjustment percentage. The visitation adjustment is calculated as follows: Locate the total number of visitation days per year in the left columns of the Visitation Table and select the adjustment percentage from the adjacent column.
Multiply the Basic Child Support Obligation determined under Section 7 by the appropriate adjustment percentage. The number resulting from this multiplication then is subtracted from the proportionate share of the Total Child Support Obligation of the parent who exercises visitation.
Number of Visitation Days --- Adjustment --- Percentage
0 to 3---0.000
4 to 20---0.012
39 to 57---0.050
58 to 72---0.068
73 to 129---0.187
130 to 148---0.255
149 to 166---0.289
167 to 180---0.323
Upon proof that in the best interests of the child such costs are in fact duplicated or equally shared by the parents or incurred primarily by the noncustodial parent, the court may make a further adjustment if visitation exceeds 129 days per year. The amount of this adjustment is limited to 16 percent of the Basic Child Support Obligation.
If the time spent with each parent is essentially equal, the expenses for the children are equally shared and gross adjusted incomes of the parents also are essentially equal, no support shall be paid. If the parents’ incomes are not equal, the total child support amount shall be divided equally between the two households and the parent owing the greater amount shall be ordered to pay what is necessary to achieve that equal share in the other parent’s household.
Determining the Child Support Order
The court shall order the noncustodial parent to pay child support in an amount equal to his or her proportionate share of the Total Child Support Obligation. The custodial parent shall be presumed to spend his or her share on the children.
Self Support Reserve Test
In each case, after determining the child support order, the court shall perform a self support reserve test to verify that the obligor is financially able both to pay the child support order and to maintain at least a minimum standard of living, as follows:
Deduct $645 (the self support reserve) from the obligors’ Adjusted Gross Income. If the resulting amount is less than the child support order, the court shall reduce the child support order to the resulting amount.
EXAMPLE: The Adjusted Gross Income of the parent paying support is $800. In determining the child support order, that parent’s proportionate share was calculated to be $175. Subtracting $645 (the self support reserve) from the $800 gross income leaves a remainder of $155. Because this difference is less than $175, the child support order must be reduced to $155.
Multiple Children, Divided Custody
When each parent is granted physical custody of at least one of the parties’ children, each parent is obligated to contribute to the support of all the children. However, the amount of current support to be paid by the parent having the greater support obligation shall be reduced by the amount of support owed to that parent by the other parent.
Support Assigned to the State
If support has been assigned to the state under Arizona Revised Statutes Section 46-407, the obligation of a parent to pay support shall not be offset by child support arrearages that may be owed to that parent.
Travel Expenses Associated with Visitation
The court may allocate travel expenses of the child associated with visitation. In doing so, the court shall consider the means of the parents and may consider how their conduct (such as a change of residence) has affected the costs of visitation. To the extent possible, any allocation shall ensure that the child has continued contact with each parent. A parent who is entitled to receive reimbursement from the other parent for allocated visitation expenses shall, upon request of the other parent, provide receipts or other evidence of payments actually made. The allocation of expenses does not change the amount of the support ordered.
Gifts in Lieu of Money
Once child support has been ordered by the court, the child support is to be paid in money. Gifts of clothing, etc. in lieu of money are not to be offset against the support order except by court order.
a. The court shall deviate from the guidelines, i.e., order support in an amount different from that which is provided pursuant to these guidelines, after considering all relevant factors, including those set forth in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-320, and applicable case law, only if all of the following criteria are met:
1. Application of the guidelines is inappropriate or unjust in the particular case,
2. The court has considered the best interests of the child in determining the amount of a deviation. A deviation that reduces the amount of support paid is not, by itself, contrary to the best interests of the child,
3. The court makes written findings regarding 1 and 2 above,
4. The court shows what the order would have been without the deviation, and
5. The court shows what the order is after deviating.
b. The court may deviate from the guidelines based upon an agreement of the parties only if all of the following criteria are met:
The agreement is in writing,
2. All parties have signed the agreement with knowledge of the amount of support that would have been ordered by the guidelines but for the agreement,
3. All parties have signed the agreement free of duress and coercion, and
4. The court complies with the requirements of Section 17.a.
Third-Party Care Givers
When a child lives with a third-party care giver by virtue of a court order, administrative placement by a state agency or under color of authority, the third-party care giver is entitled to receive support payments from each parent on behalf of the child.
The court shall make findings in the record as to: gross income, Adjusted Gross Income, Basic Child Support Obligation, Total Child Support Obligation, each parent’s proportionate share of the child support obligation, and the child support order.
The findings may be made by incorporating a worksheet containing this information into the file.
The child support order shall be set forth in a sum certain and start on a date certain. A new child support order shall be filed upon any change in the amount or due date of the child support obligation.
Exchange of Information
The court shall order that every twenty-four months financial information such as tax returns, financial affidavits, and earning statements be exchanged between the parties.
Unless the court has ordered otherwise, at the time the parties exchange financial information, they shall also exchange residential addresses and the names and addresses of their employers.
a. Standard Procedure
Pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes Sections 25-503 and 25-327, either parent or the state title IV-D agency may ask the court to modify a child support order upon a showing of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.
b. Simplified Procedure
Either parent or the state title IV-D agency may request the court to modify a child support order if application of the guidelines results in an order that varies fifteen percent or more from the existing amount. A fifteen percent variation in the amount of the order will be considered prima facie evidence of substantial and continuing change of circumstances. A request for modification of the child support amount must be accompanied by a completed and sworn "Parent’s Worksheet for Child Support Amount," and documentation supporting the incomes if different from the court’s most recent findings regarding income of the parents. If the party requesting the modification is unable to provide documentation supporting the other party’s income, the requesting party shall indicate that the income amount is attributed/estimated and state the basis for the amount listed. The state title IV-D agency may submit a parent’s worksheet.
The simplified procedure also may be used by either parent or the state title IV-D agency to modify a child support order to assign or alter the responsibility to provide medical insurance for a child who is subject of a support order.
A copy of the request for modification of child support and the "Parent’s Worksheet for Child Support Amount," including supporting documentation, showing that the proposed child support amount would vary fifteen percent or more from the existing child support order shall be served on the other parent, or on both parents if filed by the state title IV-D agency, pursuant to Rules 4.1 and 4.2, Rules of Civil Procedure.
If the requested modification is disputed, the parent receiving service must request a hearing within 20 days of service. If service is made outside the state, as provided in Rule 4.2, Rules of Civil Procedure, the parent receiving service must request a hearing within 30 days of service.
A party requesting a hearing shall file a written request for hearing accompanied by a completed and sworn "Parent’s Worksheet for Child Support Amount." Copies of the documents filed, together with the notice of hearing, shall be served on the other party and, if appropriate, the state title IV-D agency by first class mail not less than ten judicial days prior to the hearing.
Upon proof of service and if no hearing is requested within the time allowed, the court will review the request and enter an appropriate order or set the matter for hearing.
If any party requests a hearing within the time allowed, the court shall conduct such hearing. No order shall be modified without a hearing if one is requested.
The notice provision of Rule 55, Rules of Civil Procedure, does not apply to this simplified modification procedure.
A request to modify child support, request for a hearing and notice of hearing, "Parent’s Worksheet for Child Support Amount" and child support order filed or served pursuant to this subsection must be made using forms approved by the Arizona Supreme Court or substantially similar forms.
Approved forms are available from the Clerk of the Superior Court.
Effect of Cessation of Support for One Child
If support for more than one child was ordered under these guidelines and thereafter the duty to support one of the children stops, the order is not automatically reduced by that child’s share. To obtain a modification to the support order, a request must be made in writing to the court to recalculate the support obligation pursuant to these guidelines. The procedure specified in Section 21 may be used for this purpose.
Income of a Child
Income earned or money received by a child from sources other than child support shall not relieve a parent of the support obligation established by these guidelines.
Credit for Benefits
Benefits, such as social security disability or insurance, received by a child as a result of contributions made by the parent paying support shall be credited as follows:
a. Only the benefits received by the parent are included as part of that parent’s gross income.
b. If the amount of the child’s benefit for a given month is equal to or greater than the parent’s child support obligation, then the parent’s obligation is satisfied. Any benefit received by the child for a given month in excess of the child support obligation is not treated as an arrearage payment nor as a future payment.
c. If the amount of the child’s benefit for a given month is less than the parent’s child support obligation, the parent must pay the difference.
Federal Tax Exemption for Dependent Children
In any case in which the current child support obligation is at least $1,200 per year, there should be an allocation of the federal tax exemptions applicable to the minor children which as closely as possible approximates the percentages of support being provided by each of the parents. The allocation of the exemptions shall be conditioned upon payment by December 31 of the total court- ordered child support obligation for the current calendar year and any court-ordered arrearage payments due during that calendar year for which the exemption is to be claimed. If these conditions have been met, the obligee shall execute the necessary Internal Revenue Service forms to transfer the exemptions. If the obligor has paid the current support, but has not paid the court- ordered arrearage payments, the obligor shall not be entitled to claim the exemption.
If there are three children, the noncustodial parent would be entitled to claim two and the custodial parent would claim one.
If there is only one child, the noncustodial parent would be entitled to claim the child two out of every three years, and the custodial parent would claim the child one out of every three years.
For purposes of this section only, an obligor shall be credited as having paid child support that has been deducted on or before December 31pursuant to an order of assignment if the amount has been received by the court or clearinghouse by January 15 of the following year.
All child support orders in actions filed after October 31, 1996, shall be made pursuant to these guidelines, whether they be original orders or modifications of pre-existing orders.