Basic information about child support in Arizona.
What is a child support order?
A child support order is a ruling by a judge or administrative agency that sets the amount of money one or both parents must pay to support their child.1 A child support order also says who must get health insurance coverage for the child and how payment for medical expenses that are not covered by insurance will be divided between the parents.2
1 AZ ST §§ 25-503(A); 25-531(1)
2 AZ ST §§ 25-500(9); 25-531; 25-535
How can I get a child support order?
You can get a child support order by filing in superior court.1 If you are married to the child’s other parent, you can ask for child support in a divorce, legal separation, maintenance, or child support case. If you are not married to the other parent, you can file a petition to get (establish) child support.2
Note: Unwed parents must establish legal parenthood (paternity) before the judge can order child support.
Another way to get child support is to apply for child support services with the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES). They can help you establish a child support order. They can also help you do the following:
- find the other parent;
- establish paternity;
- collect court-ordered child, medical, and spousal support; and
- change (modify) your support order.3
Note: If you get cash assistance for your child, DES can start a child support case against the other parent.4 However, the government would keep some or all of the child support payments in order to pay back the public benefits that you are receiving for your child.5 You may fear starting a child support case against the abuser will put you or your child at risk of physical or emotional harm. If so, ask your DES Family Assistance caseworker for a “Good Cause” exception.6
1 AZ ST § 25-502(A)
2 AZ ST § 25-320(A)
3 Arizona Child Support Guidelines at AZ ST § 25-320(XIII)(A)
4 See AZ ST § 46-407
5 Arizona Child Support Guidelines at AZ ST § 25-320(XIII)(B)
6 See DES Claim of Good Cause form
How is the amount of child support calculated?
Usually, the judge decides the child support amount based on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. See the guidelines on the Arizona Courts website. These guidelines consider factors like the child’s needs and both parents’ finances and ability to pay. However, the judge will stray (“deviate”) from the guidelines if s/he believes that:
- applying the guidelines is unfair or inappropriate in your situation; and
- it is in your child’s best interest to order a higher or lower support amount.2
Here are some reasons why a judge could order a different child support amount:
- Both parents have significant parenting time and one parent makes a lot more money than the other.
- The parents together make more than $30,000 a month and one parent makes a lot more money than the other.
- A parent has to pay a lot to travel to see the child during his/her parenting time but s/he may not be able to afford those costs if s/he has to pay child support, too.
- A parent could not afford to get the child needed health or mental health care if s/he has to pay child support, too.
- A parent must stay home to care for his/her other child with unusual emotional or physical needs.3
1 Arizona Child Support Guidelines at AZ ST § 25-320
2 Arizona Child Support Guidelines at AZ ST § 25-320(IX)(B)
3 Arizona Child Support Guidelines at AZ ST § 25-320(IX)(D)
How long does child support last?
Usually, a parent must pay support until a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. However, if a child has a disability, a parent may have to continue paying support even when the child is an adult.1
1 AZ ST § 25-501(A)
Where can I find additional information about child support?
The Arizona Courts website has a Child Support Calculator. This is an interactive program that calculates a child support amount based on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.
Find the forms for getting (establishing) or changing (modifying) a child support order on the Arizona Courts website.
Find the answers to other frequently asked questions about child support on AZLawHelp.org.
Learn about DES’s Child Support Services on the government website.
WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their sites. These links are for your information only.