Unfortunately, some ex-spouses (or significant others) are all too happy to sit back and let the more responsible parent carry the financial burden of providing for the needs of the minor children. It can be extremely frustrating to the responsible parent if child support payments actually are being used to support the non-industrious parent and are not being used to directly benefit the children. My clients sometimes ask me if the Court can require their ex to get a job or if the Court can require their ex to prove that the child support payments are being used for the children. The answer is no, unfortunately. However, there are things that one can do to minimize the impact of this situation.
First, however, it is important to understand how child support is determined. The Arizona Supreme Court has adopted the Arizona Child Support Guidelines to determine the amount of support one parent must contribute to the other's household when the parents are unmarried, separated, or divorced. The Guidelines are available online and establish a mathematical formula that dictates the support obligation. While deviation from the Guidelines is possible in some circumstances, the Guidelines are applied in most cases and make it easy to predict the child support amount.
The two most significant factors that impact the child support obligation are (1) the amount of time a parent exercises care of the children and (2) each parent's incomes. Also relevant in the calculation is support of other children or spousal maintenance that either parent pays, the costs of medical insurance and childcare, special or extraordinary expenses, and the age of the children. With respect to parenting time, a parent will receive a larger share of the overall support amount the more time the parent cares for the children. With respect to incomes, the higher a parent's income, the more that parent must contribute to the overall support obligation of the children.
In Arizona, both parents have a legal duty to support their children. If a parent is voluntarily reducing his or her income, this may significantly reduce that parent's contribution to the overall support of the children under the calculation. If this occurs, the industrious parent may request the court attribute additional income to the non-industrious parent for the purposes of calculating support. This often requires an analysis of whether the non-industrious parent's employment situation is reasonable and what the non-industrious parent's earning capacity actually is. Sometimes (when it makes economic sense to do so), the industrious parent may hire a vocational expert to offer an opinion about the other parent's earning potential. This figure, as opposed to the non-industrious parent's actual income, would then be substituted into the formula to result in a more appropriate support obligation.
If you would like to learn more about child support and/or child support modifications, please call Owens & Perkins at (480) 630-2464 to schedule a free ½ hour consultation.