How is Child Support and Alimony Determined in Arizona?

by Jaburg Wilk

Jaburg Wilk

When divorcing couples have minor children, frequently the amount of child support is an issue in the divorce.  In Arizona, child support can be estimated using the Arizona Child Support guidelines. The courts provide a free calculator that can be used to determine what a divorcing parent's child support obligations might be.  They consider amount of time with each parent, incomes of both parents, ages of the children, medical, child care and educational expenses. The calculator is an estimate of the child support and the amount ordered by the court may be different than the estimated amount.   Once child support is ordered by the court, it becomes a financial obligation that can- and frequently is – deducted from the parent's paychecks and sent directly to the Child Support Clearinghouse.   Under ARS §23-722.01(d), Arizona employers are required to report all new hires within 20 days of hire date.  DES uses the child support computer system to match new hire information against open child support cases.  Even if there is a verbal or written agreement between the parents to change the amount of child support, the employer will still deduct the amount of child support in the court's order.

As with many divorced couples, circumstances change.  The amount of time that the children spend with one parent may increase or decrease or the amount of income that one parent earns may change substantially.  While the parents can make a new child support agreement, we would not recommend that they do. Rather, they will need to go back to court and file for modified child support even if it is for the modified amount that they have already both agreed to.   Going back to family law court for minor adjustments to child support will not be in the best interests of either party.  The circumstances need to be significantly different.  In the event that a spouse remarries, the income of a new spouse is not taken into account for purpose of calculating a child support modification.    

Spousal maintenance, frequently called alimony, may be a very hotly contested issue in a divorce. The general purpose of spousal maintenance is three-fold:

  1. Equalize unfair economic circumstances when a marriage ends
  2. Provide income so that a spouse can obtain education or other opportunities to increase earning potential
  3. Provide the spouse with the standard of living that they had enjoyed during the marriage

There are misconceptions about spousal maintenance being determined by a formula.  It is not determined solely by the length of marriage, disparate income levels, lifestyles or education levels. While those are factors, they are not the only items that are considered.  While many couples will negotiate and agree on both the amount and duration of spousal maintenance, others will allow the family law courts to decide.   The court will take into consideration the amount of child support when determining spousal maintenance – and spousal maintenance is a data point which is used in the child support calculator.  The more one party receives in spousal maintenance, the less they will receive in child support.  If there is not enough income to support both spouses, there may not be any spousal maintenance ordered.  


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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