Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About
Child Support Establishment
In Arizona, a court order is the only way to establish a child support amount. Both parents’ incomes are used to calculate the amount of child support that the noncustodial parent will pay to the other household to financially support the children. The Arizona Child Support Guidelines are used to calculate the support amount.
A formal request must be filed with the court asking for a court order that establishes the child support amount. Custody of the children must be determined by a court before child support can be ordered, and, in cases where the parents were not married, paternity must also be established before the court can order child support.
To establish child support, you may:
- Retain an attorney to represent you in court
- Represent yourself in court
- Ask the Division of Child Support Services to establish the child support order on behalf of the children
Child Support Payments
After the child support amount has been established by the court, a court order signed by a judicial officer will be issued by the court. It is important to keep a copy for your records, but you may obtain copies of your order from the Clerk of Superior Court.
The order specifies:
- the amount of child support to be paid
- who will pay the child support amount
- when to begin paying the child support amount
An Order of Assignment (also called Income Withholding Order) will be filed at the same time and a copy will be sent to the paying parent’s employer directing the employer to withhold the child support amount from the employee’s paycheck. The employer will send the money directly to the Support Payment Clearinghouse. Because the paperwork takes awhile to move through the system, the paying parent should check with his/her employer to see when the first payment will be made. If it will not be made at the time stated in the child support order, the paying parent should make the first payment directly to the Support Payment Clearinghouse at:
Arizona Support Payment Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 52107
Phoenix, Arizona 85072-2107
All child support payments should be paid directly to the Support Payment Clearinghouse. Payments should never be given directly to the other parent. If paid directly to the other parent, there is no record of the payment and an arrearage amount will show on the child support payment record, which will potentially result in action being taken against the person ordered to pay support.
After the payment is received by the Support Payment Clearinghouse, the custodial person has two options for receiving payments:
- automatic deposit into the custodial person’s bank account, or
- the payment can be loaded onto a pay card that can be used by the custodial person anywhere that major credit and debit cards are accepted.
Payments for cases not in the Division of Child Support Services system can be viewed online (for Maricopa County cases only). Payments and limited case information for cases in the Division of Child Support Services system may be viewed online (for cases statewide).
Child Support Enforcement
After the child support amount has been ordered by the court, payments must be made on a monthly basis and paid on time as specified in the child support order. If payments are not made on time, a variety of actions can be taken against the paying parent, including:
- Court action which could result in incarceration (jail time)
- Liens on personal and real property and motor vehicles
- License suspension (drivers, professional, recreational)
- Tax refund intercepts (both state and federal)
- Bank account seizure
- Passport denial
- Credit bureau reporting
- Lottery winning intercept
- Unemployment Insurance benefit intercept
- Worker’s compensation intercept
To collect the unpaid child support amounts, you may:
The Division of Child Support Services is the only entity that can perform the actions above that are italicized. If you represent yourself in court or hire an attorney to represent you but do not have a case with the Division of Child Support Services, those enforcement options will not be available to you.
Child Support Modification
The child support amount may be modified if the parent asking the court to modify the amount can prove that:
- Circumstances have changed in a substantial and continuing manner (called a Standard Modification), or
- The new amount would be at least 15% higher or lower than the existing amount (called a Simplified Modification).
A change of circumstances typically means that income has changed significantly or a change of custody has taken place.
To modify the child support amount, you may:
Child Support Termination
All child support orders and Orders of Assignment signed by a judge after January 1, 2005, will contain the date that child support should stop accruing (after the youngest child emancipates at age 18 or until finished with high school but not beyond age 19). This will automatically stop the child support order and the Order of Assignment; however, if any unpaid (past due) child support is still owing, the employer will be instructed to continue withholding an amount from the paying parent’s paycheck until paid in full, including interest and fees.
Child support orders prior to January 1, 2005, will automatically stop accruing; however the Order of Assignment does not stop until the paying parent files a Request to Stop the Order of Assignment and can prove that all past due support and any interest and fees have been paid in full.
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