Need to Modify Child Support? Make Sure You File the Right Way
A divorce involving children is never easy. Even when the split is amicable, there are almost always issues to contend with down the road. In most cases, one parent has primary custody of the children, with the other parent paying child support. Sometimes divorced Arizona parents experience major changes in their lives post-divorce. A job loss, change in custody, incarceration, or other life change can cause a decrease in income. When this happens, a child support modification may be in order. Click to schedule an appointment
What is Child Support Modification?
The divorce proceedings will often include a child support order. One of the parents will be ordered to pay a certain amount of money to the custodial parent on a monthly basis.
This amount is set in stone unless one of the parties requests a modification. While you are allowed a modification under state and federal law, not all modifications are granted. Certain conditions must be met in order for one to be approved by the court. The court may increase or decrease the amount. In some cases, no changes may be made at all.
Factors That Determine the Amount of Child Support
Child support payment amounts vary from one person to another. The court takes many factors into consideration when determining the amount of child support the non-custodial parent must pay.
Child support amounts are typically determined using a schedule. However, there are numerous additions and deductions that often come into play. For example, a monthly payment may also include appropriate expenses related to healthcare, education, and daycare. In addition, children over the age of 12 tend to have more expenses, which means that the support payment could increase by as much as 10%.
The court also has its own guidelines for determining exactly how much a non-custodial parent should be expected to pay the other parent. According to Arizona Revised Statutes §25-320:
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.
Other considerations include daycare, alimony paid to either partner, and whether or not there are children from another relationship.
According to Arizona Child Support Guidelines, there are other premises that must be followed. Firstly, all children produced during the relationship are considered in the child support amount. Whether or not the child was born out of wedlock or adopted makes no difference.
Child support is considered to be the non-custodial parent’s main financial responsibility. A parent is not allowed to pay a lower amount or forego the payment altogether simply because he or she has other financial obligations. Along the same lines, natural children are the top priority. Financial support of parents or non-blood-related family members such as stepchildren is not considered necessary in the eyes of the court, and as such, the court will not adjust the child support payment based on this.
There is no reason why a custodial parent cannot receive both child support and alimony. However, the court must determine the amount of alimony first, with the child support amount to follow.
Why a Child Support Modification May be Needed
There are many reasons why you might want to request a modification in the amount of child support you are paying or receiving. Either parent can request the modification. One of the main reasons why parents request a modification is due to a change in income. Unemployment often happens unexpectedly, and it is not uncommon for a person to suddenly get laid off and have to live on unemployment. A drastic reduction in income would make it difficult to pay support based on your original order and would therefore be a good reason to request a modification. On the other hand, if you find out that the noncustodial parent has received a significant raise or promotion, then you may be able to receive an increase in child support as a result.
A serious medical condition or disability would also warrant a modification. Not only do employment situations change, but so does one’s health. An accident or medical condition can cause a parent to become unable to work. A loss of income on top of medical bills can make it virtually impossible to pay child support.
If it has been at least three years since the child support order was reviewed for modification, you may want to have it reviewed again. Financial situations change, and a modification may work to your advantage. You may end up paying less child support, or you may be able to receive more from the other parent.
Health care is another reason why you might want to request a modification. Health care is a necessity for your child, and if the noncustodial spouse can acquire medical insurance at a better rate than you can, then it is certainly in your best interest to order the other party to pay the full cost or at least chip in.
A change in custody would also necessitate a child support modification. If, for example, a parent lost custody due to child abuse, he or she would likely be forced to pay child support to the other parent.
Childcare expenses may increase unexpectedly. A child may be diagnosed with a medical condition, resulting in a potential increase of hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care. After getting free daycare from a friend or family member, a custodial parent may need to send the child to a daycare facility, which can cost $1,000 or more per month – no small expense.
In rare cases, a child may become emancipated. This means that a child under the age of 18 is no longer under the control of either parent and is self-sufficient enough to live on his or her own. This is not a common situation, but if it does occur, then you would no longer have to pay child support. Click to schedule an appointment
Duration of Child Support
It is assumed that child support continues until the child turns 18 years old. However, in some cases, the duration of the child support payments can also be changed. According to Arizona Revised Statutes §25-1304:
Upon entry of an initial or modified child support order, the court shall, or in any subsequent action relating to the child support order, the court may, establish a presumptive date for the termination of the current child support obligation. The presumptive termination date shall be the last day of the month of the 18th birthday of the youngest child included in the order unless the court finds that it is projected that the youngest child will not complete high school by age 18. In that event, the presumptive termination date shall be the last day of the month of the anticipated graduation date or age 19, whichever occurs first. The administrative income withholding order issued by the department or its agent in Title IV-D cases and an Order of Assignment issued by the court shall include the presumptive termination date. The presumptive date may be modified upon changed circumstances.
The one exception is if the child is disabled. If your child suffers from a physical or mental disability that will prevent him or her from becoming self-sufficient, then you will likely be on the hook for providing financial support for child for possibly a lifetime.
One thing to mention is that Arizona does not require parents to pay for a child’s college expenses. Parents in this state are not obligated to pay for college tuition, although they can agree to tuition in the divorce decree, with the court enforcing it.
Get Help Filing
As you can see, child support is not simple. It is a complicated topic, and the waters can get even murkier when you take into consideration modifications, deviations, and terminations.
These situations require the court to get involved. They also require mounds of paperwork just to get started. Filing the appropriate documents on your own can be frustrating and time-consuming. Incomplete paperwork can cause delays. Plus, you will need to obtain financial information from the other parent, which is not easy to do. As it is, the review of a child support modification can take up to six months to finalize.
Getting help from a lawyer, however, can cost thousands of dollars. The next best thing is a document preparation firm. Document preparation is done by certified paralegals who have the education and skills to ensure that everything is done right. They have the software to create the documents and perform the necessary calculations. They ensure that the other parent is served the paperwork and given time to respond. If he or she does not respond, then the firm will file a request allowing the court to sign off on the child support order.
Benefits of Using a Document Preparation Service
A document preparation service takes care of all the paperwork related to a divorce. This may include paperwork required for issues such as child support, paternity, or guardianship. This type of legal firms prepares, files, and serves all paperwork. It also tracks deadlines and ensure all procedures are properly followed.
One reason why document preparation firms are so popular is because they charge a flat rate instead of charging you by the hour, so you know up front how much money you will be spending. For example, you can expect to pay $400 for a child support modification. They also have appropriate certifications, so you know you are dealing with a trustworthy company. For example, Arizona Statewide Paralegal is certified by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Things to Consider
Arizona Statewide Paralegal employs Arizona Certified legal document preparers. While we can provide general information as it pertains to the law, they cannot give legal advice. If you need an expert opinion or want to formulate a strategy for getting the best legal results possible, it is advisable that you seek legal advice from a family law attorney prior to using our services.
If you are going through a divorce in Tucson, Phoenix, Mesa, or anywhere else in Arizona, you will find that there is an immense amount of paperwork involved in the process. Arizona Statewide Paralegal has managed child support and divorce paperwork for many customers since 1992. We offer many services to help you manage and file this paperwork without having to pay lawyer fees of hundreds of dollars an hour. If you are looking for a legal professional, without the high price, contact us to learn more about the services we provide for Arizona parents going through a separation or divorce with children or if you need a child support modification.