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Although many terms in a divorce settlement are not modifiable in the future, child support is modifiable.

What Arizona law says about child support modification

Under Arizona law, child support may be modified (either increased or decreased) any time there is a “substantial and continuing” change of circumstances. Some possible changes include increases or decreases in a parent’s income, child care expenses, education expenses, health insurance premiums, the amount of spousal maintenance you pay or receive changes or terminates, or parenting time changes. For example, if your income remains the same, but the amount of time you spend with your children changes, that may warrant an adjustment to the child support amount.

How the process works in Maricopa County

The Maricopa County Superior Court has designed an easy-to-use program for modifying child support awards through its Family Court Conference Center division. This program is frequently referred to as the “simplified process” and was designed to assist parents in modifying child support without hiring an attorney, although certainly an attorney can assist you in any stage of the process. Simple forms requesting a change in child support can be downloaded from the court’s website, filed with the court, and served on the other parent.

If the parent who is served does not file an objection within a specified time period, your request to modify child support will be granted. If parent who is served objects to the modification of support, a hearing date will be scheduled and a conference officer will meet with both of you. Based on the information you provide, the officer will make a recommendation to the judge as to a new child support amount. If both parties agree on that recommendation, the child support will be modified accordingly.

What happens if there is disagreement?

After meeting with the conference officer if the parents are unable to agree upon the child support amount then the case will go before a Commissioner, who will consider the evidence and enter an order for child support. The “simplified process” is likely not the best option if the combined gross monthly incomes of both parents exceeds $20,000 per month, or if one parent is self-employed. Keep in mind that the determination of a parent’s income for determining child support is not necessarily the reportable income for tax purposes. In such complicated cases, a judge, rather than a commissioner, may be better qualified to determine whether child support should be modified, and the appropriate amount of child support.

Requesting income & employment information

To easily obtain information about the other parent’s income and employment benefits, send a written request (via first class mail) to his or her employer. If you are a party to a proceeding for child support (or spousal maintenance), the employer has 20 days under Arizona Revised Statute §25-513 to provide the requested information. You may make only one request every 90 days.

Contact us at Hallier Stearns PLC for help with the child support modification process.