In Arizona, child support is determined by using a formula. Several factors are considered – income of each party, how many other children each parent supports, cost of daycare and health insurance, as well as how much time each parent spends with the child or children.
There are some changed circumstances that justify changing the amount of child support from the amount originally ordered. However, the changed circumstances must be both substantial and continuing.[i] What would qualify – under Arizona law – as changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing?
The loss of a job or becoming employed at a higher compensation amount probably qualifies. Generally, 15% increase or decrease is used as the guide. If the child support amount would increase or decrease by 15%, it is likely there are changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing.
A change in the cost of daycare often creates changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing. Since the cost of daycare is typically included in the child support worksheet, when the child no longer attends daycare, that cost is eliminated and the amount of child support will reduce – often significantly.
Health insurance is a factor which is specifically mentioned in Arizona’s laws. As with other changes, a radical increase or decrease in the cost of health insurance coverage for the children or children may justify a modification of child support.
The cost of supporting other children impacts the child support calculation. So, if one of the parties becomes responsible for another child, or if a supported child reaches the age of 18, that change may constitute a changed circumstance which is substantial and continuing.
Child support calculations consider the amount of parenting time exercised by each parent. If one of the parents does not exercise parenting time with the child or children, it is likely that this will create a sufficient change of circumstances to modify child support.
To make a change in child support, a petition for child support modification must be filed with the Court. The non-filing party must be served, and then, has the right to request and attend a hearing to determine if the modification is justified under the facts of the case. While parties are not required to hire attorney, if the issues are complex, it may be wise to do so.
When does a change in support become effective? The law[ii] requires that any modification is effective on the first day of the month following the notice of the petition for modification.
Finally, does the child support obligation terminate upon death of the parent obligated to support the child? The answer is generally no. The child support obligation survives the death of the obligated parent but the amount can be commuted to a lump sum payment.