In child support cases, the Arizona child support guidelines
presume that the financial burden of raising a child should be shared fairly by both parents. This does not always mean that the burden should be divided equally. Depending on factors such as differing incomes, standards of living, the child's special needs, or any substantial changes in lifestyle, child support may be apportioned differently to maintain a fair balance between the parents.
Sometimes that child support amount can be manipulated by innocent mistakes or intentional omissions. Sadly, there are many parties (and their attorneys) who will try to unfairly change the outcome. This is done by a variety of methods, such as incorrectly reporting one party’s income, forgetting to put down the cost of the children’s medical insurance or day care costs, or counting the amount of time each parent spends with the child.
As child support is calculated on a monthly basis, some costs need to be calculated over the course of a year, then divided by 12 to get the correct annualized amounts to plug into the worksheet. Other children (i.e., not common to the other parent) can cause a significant change in a child support number because the Guidelines strive to treat all children equally.
On other occasions, there are simply different interpretations of the law that can be used to change the Guideline amount of support. Although the Arizona Guidelines should – assuming that you put in the same, correct numbers - reach the same ordered amount each time, this is not always so. A number of variances can cause a huge difference in the final outcome. Issues such as overtime and second jobs can cause a huge dispute in Court. Similarly, the number of days (and how you count them) can result in hundreds of dollars differences in how much the other parent will receive.
An experienced and seasoned lawyer will know what to look out for when helping you re-calculate support to get a fair number for support. In addition, an attorney that has performed calculations for years will know how to fully present your case and argue when something incorrect or wrong is occurring.
In recognition of the likelihood that parents' financial situations and resources are subject to change, Arizona law provides for modifying child support orders
under specific circumstances.
Generally put, the law here in Arizona will allow a party or the court to seek modification of child support if the has been “a significant and ongoing change in circumstances.” This means that, if you are out of work for only two weeks or your ex-spouse wins a one-time $1,000 Power Ball, the court will usually not change the child support orders, as these examples are not “ongoing” in nature. Similarly, the court usually wants to see at a minimum a 15% change - up or down - on the final amount being paid before allowing a change under the “significant” standard.
Finally, Arizona law does not allow for retroactive modification in child support, unless and until somebody files to modify the existing order. In other words, a Judge cannot help you if you come into court and tell him/her that you were out of work for five months last year because you broke your leg and were laid up. Even if that is true, the Judge cannot help you unless somebody filed something at the time and asked the Court for assistance; and, even then, the law will allow modification only starting from the first of the month from when somebody filed for a change and served the other parent.