When two parents do not live together or get divorced, one of the major issues that must be settled is whether one parent will pay child support to the other parent. Both parents have the duty to financially support their children whether the children live with them or not. Because there is often a financial disparity between the parents, one parent is generally required to make payments to the other to contribute to the costs of the child’s basic needs. Such child support payments can continue until the child turns 18 or until they graduate from high school (whichever occurs last).
Only legal parents are required to pay child support. This means that in some cases, it may be necessary to establish legal paternity of a child before a child support order can be issued. Paternity can be established in a few different ways, depending on your circumstances:
- Have both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form and file it with the courts or the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).
- A parent can request a hearing to determine paternity if the other parent is uncooperative. This may require genetic testing.
Once paternity is legally established, the question of child support can be addressed.
How Child Support is Calculated in Arizona
Arizona courts do not have the discretion to make arbitrary child support decisions. Instead, the law requires courts to consider many different factors when determining who should pay child support and the amount of the payments. Some of these important factors include:
- The income of each parent
- Which parent has custody and how often the children live with each parent
- Whether child care is necessary and who pays for it
- Which parent provides health insurance for the child
- Whether either parent has other children with other people that they have to also support
- Whether one parent is also paying spousal support (alimony) to the other
- Any special needs of the child
Child Support Orders Should be Fair for Both Parents
The amount of child support a parent must pay should be fair for everyone involved. For example, if a parent is ordered to pay an exorbitant amount, they may not be able to afford to pay the rest of their bills and expenses for their own life. On the other hand, if a child support order is too low, the parent receiving payments may have to contribute a disproportionate amount to care for the child or may even struggle to properly provide for the child. After the court calculates a child support amount, either parent can raise arguments to challenge the amount if they believe the determination is unfair.
Child support payments are often essential for the wellbeing of your child. If you are ordered to pay child support and fail to do so, you can face serious consequences. On the other hand, if you have not received necessary child support payments, you may turn to the courts to help you enforce the child support order.