Child Support Enforcement in Arizona
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Child support orders often accompany divorce decrees and child custody determinations. However, they can also be their own standalone order, too.
This is particularly true if you are legally separated, or you were never married to the child’s parent.
Child support provides vital funds to ensure that a parent has appropriate resources to take care of the child. It helps assist with food, housing costs, medical needs, education expenses, and a lot more to ensure that the best interests of the child are being served.
Failing to pay child support or even paying child support late can seriously harm the custodial parent and the child involved.
Because child support is determined by the court, failing to pay is actually a violation of a court order. As a result, there are all kinds of negative consequences that can result from the failure to pay.
Unfortunately, the threat of adverse actions does not stop some people from simply declining to provide for their children as the court orders.
Thankfully, you have options under Arizona law to get the money that is owed for past missed payments.
The Basics: How Does Child Support Work?
Most child support orders are set up so that you receive a monthly amount from the other parent. Many parents chose to have their child support obligation directly paid through their paycheck.
This type of setup is established in an income withholding order from the court.
The Arizona Child Support Clearinghouse oversees these payments and makes sure that the funds get where they need to go.
The other option for child support payments is a “direct pay.” This arrangement can be made without a court order.
It involves merely having funds move from the paying parent to the receiving parent on a regular basis from one bank account to another.
This arrangement is problematic, and you should discuss the issues that arise when paying or receiving child support in this manner with an experienced family law attorney.
How is Child Support Established?
Before you can enforce child support, you must actually have an order from the court that sets out how much support should be and how it will be paid.
If you have an informal arrangement with the other parent regarding support, you will likely not be able to enforce that by using Arizona courts.
Instead, you must go through the formal process of getting a child support order from the court.
You can agree on how child support will be paid, but you must still get court approval before it can be enforced. Child support is determined by using a very specific calculation.
Child support will generally continue until the child’s 18th birthday. However, it can continue in some circumstances.
What Happens if a Parent Does Not Pay Child Support?
If a parent violates an Arizona child support order and fails to keep up with child support obligations, then the court can hold that parent in contempt of court.
That means that the paying parent is not following a required directive from the court.
Ultimately, the parent who does not pay child support can end up having to deal with one or more of the following consequences:
- Income withholding from paychecks, lump-sum payments, unemployment, or retirement benefits
- Negative notations on their credit report
- Garnishment of income tax refunds
- Take possession of bank accounts or other property
- Suspension of driver’s license
- Property liens (on their home or other properties)
- Offset lottery winnings
- Suspension of professional licenses
Can an Arizona Family Law Attorney Help with Collection?
There are two ways that a Scottsdale child support lawyer can help with collecting child support.
Enforcement and/or Contempt
An attorney can help with collecting child support owed by filing an Enforcement and/or Contempt action.
Asking the court to enforce the current child support order, find the parent in contempt for failing to comply with the order, and impose punishments, so the paying parent complies with the order in the future. These punishments can include fines and even putting them in jail.
Communication is Key
One of the benefits of having a child support lawyer is that you can get an update on your case virtually whenever you would like. It is easy to simply pick up the phone or send a quick email to talk to your lawyer.
What if the Other Parent Wants to Modify Child Support?
Enforcing child support orders and modifying child support are actually two separate procedures in Arizona.
That means that the parent who owes support cannot claim that they do not have to pay because the child support order should be modified. They can make that argument later, but that does not help the amount of support that they already owe.
Modifying child support requires that you file a Petition for Modification and show that there has been a material change in circumstances since the child support was entered.
That material change can be based on the parent or the child. Most often, it is due to a change in income, but not always.
How Can I Get More Information?
If you would like to learn more about child support enforcement, contact our team of family law lawyers. We can help you evaluate your situation realistically to help determine the best path for your unique case.
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