Enforcing Child Support: Legal Options for Non-Payment in Arizona

Divorce involves many decisions between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Despite the difficulty and complexity of dividing assets, child custody can often be the most contentious issue. Furthermore, child support can be difficult to negotiate and enforce. With the help of a family law attorney in Prescott, you can see the most favorable outcome.

According to the 2018 Census, about two-thirds of custodial parents received partial child support, and less than half received full child support. In terms of unpaid child support, Arizona ranks fifth in the nation, with Hawaii claiming the top spot only a few percentage points higher. Failure to pay child support can greatly impact the lives of a parent and their children. Children may not see their custodial parent’s financial strain, but they may feel the stress it causes. In addition to criminal or civil penalties, parents who fail to pay may face contempt of court charges.

In Arizona, How Is Child Support Calculated?
Child support is generally calculated based on several factors, primarily income and parenting time. Children are the focus of the courts, as they want to maintain the comfort level and current lifestyle of the children. As both parties go through this process, determining child support can be challenging. Don’t try to go it alone. Hiring the right family law attorney in Prescott, AZ, can make all the difference.

Using the Income Share Model
Unlike other states, Arizona calculates child support using an “income share model.” This means that children should receive the same monetary benefit as if their parents were still living together. In most cases, the courts will attempt to meet the needs of the child or children as they were before the separation or divorce. Child support is typically based on this calculated model derived from income and parenting time, although the court has the power to diverge from it if it seems unfair or unjust.

Arizona calculates parenting time uniquely, so understanding the system is essential before seeking Arizona child support. Divorce lawyers in Prescott, AZ, can help. A full day of parenting is defined as any period between 12 and 24 hours. A half-day is approximately 6-11 hours, while a quarter-day is approximately 3-5 hours.

Following a separation or divorce, child support must begin and end as follows:

  • When a child reaches the age of 18
  • When the child is 18 but still attending high school. The payment period ends at graduation
  • When a child reaches 19 years of age but has not graduated high school

Calculating Gross Income
Calculating child support payments requires determining gross income. The gross income of a parent includes most of how they can earn money. Among these are:

  • Salary or wages earned by working
  • Earned bonuses or commissions
  • A severance package
  • Dividends
  • Social Security or workers’ compensation

Any additional income earned through overtime wouldn’t be included in this amount unless it is “historically earned” and part of a regular schedule. A landscaper, for example, may work four 12-hour shifts each week. Overtime earned in this way would be considered “historically earned.”

How Do You Deal with a Parent Who Doesn’t Pay Child Support?
Upon determining the amount of child support, it is up to the appropriate party to pay it. When a parent fails to pay child support, a divorce attorney in Prescott, AZ, can start proceedings to recover the outstanding balance with interest. Filing a contempt petition is the first step. A decree to appear will be issued by the court, and a contempt hearing will be scheduled. Both the contempt order and the contempt petition must be served on the other parent. On the scheduled date, the petitioning party must also appear in court.

The other parent doesn’t need to attend the hearing for the contempt proceedings to continue. Those who fail to appear for the hearing will likely be found in contempt and face legal repercussions. Make sure you have sufficient evidence that the other party knew of the child support order and willfully chose not to pay it. You can prove this to the court with the assistance of a skilled Prescott divorce attorney.

Unpaid Child Support Penalties
Parents who fail to pay child support may face several consequences if they are found in contempt. Their most significant risk is jail time. Other penalties may be ordered by the court, including:

  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Suspension professional license
  • Personal property liens
  • Seizure of bank accounts
  • Benefits garnished for worker’s compensation
  • Reporting to the credit bureau

In Arizona, failure to pay child support is considered a class VI felony, punishable by up to 1.5 years in prison. Depending on the amount of back child support, the non-paying parent may be convicted of a misdemeanor and receive up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine instead. Last but not least, those who have committed severe child support evasion may be placed on the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s list of wanted child support evaders.

Arizona Child Support Arrears Forgiveness
Family law in Prescott, AZ, recognizes that circumstances may arise that affect a non-custodial parent’s ability to pay child support. The Arizona Division of Child Support Services offers various programs to assist parents who are behind on their child support payments.

The first program is available to those who have obtained a high school diploma or GED. Depending on their situation, they may see a reduction in their back owed payments of up to $1,000. The second is DCSS’s Hardship Program. The program may be of benefit to those who are unable to make child support payments due to unforeseen circumstances. The third is a settlement program. In such cases, the parent who owes money might settle the debt in full or in installments over a maximum of three months.

Modifying Child Support
Either parent may file for a child support modification if their financial status has changed considerably to construct a new arrangement that better suits their needs right now. The parent must provide documentation of this modification for the court to authorize and the parties to agree on a new child support amount. An important shift in the situation might involve:

  • A child from a new relationship
  • Parenting time getting shorter or longer
  • A new job that results in a pay rise or fall
  • An older child who no longer needs support while other children do

A court may decide to change the child support order in any of these situations. Proof can be shown to the Arizona family court by a divorce lawyer in Prescott if the modifications to one or both of the parent’s income, parenting time, or both need a new agreement.

Factors That Disqualify You for Relief of Child Support
Child support payments are the most significant debt that Arizona courts handle and are given priority over other debts. Therefore, a parent cannot take on debt to avoid having to pay child support orders. Voluntary debt accumulation, whether related to the purchase of additional assets or not, might not be taken into consideration when determining the “significant and lasting changes” that Arizona considers when modifying child support orders. The parent is required to pay child support independent of any other personal financial decisions since it is deemed the most significant issue.

Arrears on Child Support and Parenting Time
The custodial party does not have the right to deny parenting time only because the other parent is not paying the agreed-upon amounts of child support. The non-custodial parent cannot stop paying child support if they aren’t getting their parenting time back. In Arizona, parenting time and child support are treated as distinct legal decisions. Both situations involve illegal activity, and the guilty party may face consequences.

Why Hire a Child Support Attorney in Arizona?
Any parenting plan or divorce decree must include a child support arrangement. It places financial responsibility for the children’s upbringing on the non-custodial parent, just as it would have in a relationship with the child’s other parent. What’s in the best interest of the child or children is what Arizona Family Court looks at most.

Unpaid child support, however, can also significantly burden the custodial parent. An unmanageable load can also befall a parent who suddenly finds themselves unable to make payments because of a major change in circumstances. A knowledgeable child support lawyer may assist you in meeting your kid’s legal needs under Arizona child support laws, regardless of whether you need to obtain money from your child’s other parent or are finding it difficult to make your payments.

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