In Arizona, the judge can Modify the original Child Support Order which was included in the original Decree of Dissolution. As always, the main factor the judge will look to is the “best interest of the child,” not “who is the better parent.” What is most important is that the money is used to feed, house and educate the child – along with any necessary medical care. The factors the court will look to during “Child Support Modifications” are very similar to the facts utilized in the coming to a decision on the initial Decree of Dissolution:
- The educational, medical and mental health needs of the child.
- The financial debts and abilities of both parents.
- How much time the child spends at each parent’s house (assuming there is joint custody) and any of the expenses which are associated.
- The standard of living the children were enjoying prior to the Dissolution of Marriage.
- The financial resources that the child has (such as Trusts and things of this nature).
- Whether either parent has been concealing or disposing of the payments which were directed to the child (including excessive spending on unrelated items).
The Arizona Supreme Court Guidelines regarding Child Support is what is normally followed by the courts in order to determine the original support amounts. These are based on math formulas which look at the factors specified above, along with: the income of the parents; the parent who pays for the health insurance; how much time is spent at each residence; other child support obligations; and additional step children who might be living with the spouse and their ongoing expenses. It is important that you prepare a list of all of the factors previously discussed when seeking a Child Support Modification, and have that list available after you contact us or call us at (602)254-8880 in order to meet with The Cantor Law Group for your free initial consultation.
At The Cantor Law Group, we also utilize a computer software program known as “Cassandra”® which can accurately and critically determine Child Support amounts under the Guidelines.
Although income is normally the most important factor when looking to determine a Child Support Modification, you do not just look at a standard paycheck. You also look at any commission payments, disability payments, bonuses, Social Security income, intellectual property income (such as royalties), income from rental properties or any other source of income it may come from. Many times courts will look at stock options and their current value (as opposed to a retirement plan) when determining Spousal Maintenance Modification. Also, judges will look at a non-working spouse and credit them with the ability to at least hold a 40-hour per week minimum wage job. The only exceptions to these rules are: if the parent is currently enrolled in high school; under 18 years of age; or is disabled and cannot work.
When one spouse is self-employed, then there will need to be extensive “Discovery” to determine the true amount of their income. Whenever one spouse has a business in which there are cash receipts, you always need to make sure that these amounts are not being hidden from the other spouse. In addition, many expenses are improperly written off as “business expenses”. At The Cantor Law Group, our experienced attorneys will look to all factors to determine the “true income” of one of the spouses. Tax returns often do not match the “true income,” and the examination of prior financial documents (such as a previous loan application) can often result in an admission by one spouse of their “true income.”
In the original Decree of Dissolution, Child Support must have assigned to one or both spouses responsibility for paying a medical insurance coverage and other non-covered medical expenses. The court will never look to the income of a new spouse or a new significant other in order to make the determinations of a Child Support obligation. So if one party marries a millionaire, that will not change either party’s Child Support obligations.
It is extremely important that a list of all relevant information which may affect Modifications of Child Support be prepared and provided to our office as soon as possible. Try and bring this list with you after you contact us or call us at (602)254-8880 in order to meet The Cantor Law Group for your free initial consultation.