News flash…child support is not based on the children’s expenses (usually). As a family law attorney, I hear myself saying this to clients or potential clients on a regular basis. Child support is based on the parent’s incomes.
Arizona has child support guidelines and a calculator, which is very easy to use.
You plug in the appropriate numbers and magically child support is calculated. Sound easy? In theory yes, but it begs the question of what numbers to use.
Incomes are sometimes easily determined and sometimes not so much. If one parent isn’t working, the court may still attribute income to that parent-it might be minimum wage or something much greater. How much is very case and fact-specific. The presumption is that both parents are able to contribute to the cost of raising their child, which is why both parents will typically have some income amount listed-even if one is not working.
Why not base child support on expenses?
While parents (and attorneys) will argue over one’s income, if a child’s expenses were to be used, it would be even more problematic. How do you attribute expenses if one parent shops at discount stores for the child and other at higher-end stores? How many pairs of shoes does a child need? Is one too few? Is fifteen too many? What is the right number? To eliminate those arguments, we use incomes.
Of course for self-employed parents or those who receive the bulk of their income in cash tips, such as a hairdresser or massage therapist, incomes may be slightly more difficult to determine, as opposed to a salaried employee.
Other things may also effect child support
Supporting other children not common to the parties, which parent pays health insurance for the child and the cost associated with that, childcare or private school tuition costs, are among the most common. The other, and biggest factor-the amount of time each parent has with the children.
With child support comes a determination of how to share noncovered medical expenses, such as copays and deductibles for the child, and the division of the child tax dependency exemption.
While the calculator is available for free on the Arizona Supreme Court and Maricopa County Superior Court websites, choosing which numbers to use is often the biggest issue people have. If you have questions about child support, how much you are currently paying, how much you should receive, or whether it can be modified, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
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