Modifying Your Arizona Child Support Order
Child support orders can obligate one parent to pay a specific amount of money each month to the other parent until the child turns 18 years of age (or older). The amount of child support is determined in a divorce or custody proceeding by taking the income of both parents at that moment in time and using those income figures to calculate the child support figure based on the child support guidelines adopted by Arizona. While this will usually lead to an appropriate child support payment amount initially, this same child support amount may become inappropriate and/or unfair to one party or the other as the income and life situations of each parent changes.
Modifications of Child Support Orders are Possible Under Some Circumstances
Arizona law permits one party or the other (that is, either the payor parent or the payee parent) to ask the court to review the existing child support order and redetermine the amount of child support that should be paid under certain circumstances. In most cases, the court will look for a substantial change in the life of one parent or the other that is expected to last for a significant amount of time and that can affect the amount of child support by 15 percent or more before agreeing to review the child support order. Some of these “substantial changes” include:
- Where it has been at least three years since the court had last reviewed the child support order (it is assumed that during this time substantial changes might have occurred that warrant a review of the existing order);
- Where one parent has gained a new job or lost a job;
- Where one parent has received a promotion and raise or a demotion and loss of pay;
- If the child or one of the children have become emancipated or turned 18 years of age and/or graduated from high school;
- Where there is a need for the child to have health insurance and no previous orders regarding health insurance have been made;
- Where a child or one of the parents has been determined to be partially or totally disabled;
- Where the parenting time or custody arrangements have changed.
The party that is requesting the court review the child support order bears the burden of demonstrating that such a substantial change exists. Even where a court finds that a change in circumstances exists, it may decline to modify the child support order if the modification would result in a child support amount that is within 15 percent of the current amount. For example, suppose that Parent A has been ordered to pay Parent B $500 in child support each month for the past five years. Parent A may have a valid argument for asking the court to review the child support order. However, if after a review of the incomes of Parents A and B the court determines that the new child support amount would be greater than $425 or less than $575, the court may simply permit the existing child support order to remain in place.
You Cannot Engineer a Substantial Change
Courts will not modify child support orders in favor of a parent who deliberately and without reason quits a job or engages in conduct designed to get him- or herself fired. A party cannot engineer or orchestrate a “substantial change” in his or her circumstances. So, for example, suppose Parent A is paying $500 per month in child support and decides that he wants to quit his or her job to pursue his or her true passion – painting. If Parent A were to ask for a review and reduction in child support based on the loss of income, a court will very likely deny the requested modification because Parent A’s circumstances are of his or her own creation.
Contact a qualified family law attorney to find out more about modifying your Arizona child support order.