The 2022 Arizona Child Support Guidelines feature a lot of extremely important changes and updates from the 2018 Guidelines. While this explanation is by no means comprehensive, here is a brief overview of the changes that were made:
What Are the Child Support Guidelines and How Do They Work?
Arizona law requires custodial and non-custodial parents to provide “reasonable support” for their minor children. This obligation is not avoidable. This aspect of Arizona family law is so important that determination of the amount of child support to be paid by each parent is not left to judicial discretion. Rather, the Arizona Supreme Court has adopted a set of guidelines, which is reviewed and revised every 4 years by a committee.
The Child Support Guidelines are used to help litigants, attorneys, and judges calculate the approximate amount that the parents would spend on the children if the parents remained living together. Arizona follows the Income Shares Model, which means that both parents’ incomes are used to calculate the amount of child support that one parent will pay to the other household to financially support the children.
Organization, Language and Examples
For the first time since the Child Support Guidelines were created, changes were made to the organization of the guidelines so that they now read in a fashion that is more cohesive and follows the same sequence that is used in the Child Support Worksheet. Some people might have concerns now that the section numbers have been changed, but not to worry—at the end of the guidelines, there is a correlation table to help explain what section in the old guidelines covers the same topic in the new guidelines. There is also now an “Executive Summary” at the beginning of the Guidelines. This section essentially explains each step of the child support calculation in short, simple terms.
The language in the guidelines was also updated to be more clear and easily understandable to the reader.
The examples throughout the guidelines to illustrate certain topics were also greatly improved in the 2022 Guidelines. The first change was the number of examples used. There are many more examples included in the 2022 Guidelines than there were in the 2018 Guidelines. The second change was regarding the amount of detail used in each example. Now, each example contains far more details to ensure that there is no confusion for the reader. Lastly, a change was made so that instead of “Mother” and “Father” or “Parent A” and “Parent B,” the guidelines just use gender-neutral names in the examples. This should make it far easier for people to understand and will also avoid the possibility of offending someone.
The issue of determining income is covered comprehensively in Section II of the new guidelines. The Guidelines now utilize the term “child support income” rather than the term “gross income.” For years now, there has been confusion of what gross income actually means, especially because gross income for tax purposes is slightly different than for child support purposes.
The income section addresses the following 5 questions:
- What is included in child support income?
- What is not included in child support income?
- When is overtime included as child support income?
- When is child support income attributed even if not actually being earned?
- When is income not attributed for purposes of calculating child support income?
Regarding adjustments to income, a few modifications were made. To give just one example, a change was made to the adjustment for Spousal Maintenance. For years, the Child Support Guidelines allowed the amount paid for spousal maintenance to anyone (whether it be the other parent or another third party from a previous marriage) to be deducted from the income of the person paying it. Now, spousal maintenance can only be deducted from income if it is being paid to the other parent in the case at hand—it cannot be considered if it is being paid to a third party from a previous marriage.
Child Support Obligation
The Schedule of Basic Support Obligations, also commonly referred to as “the Chart” has been modified based on the most recent economic research on incomes in Arizona and how much it costs to raise children. Per the Guidelines, the parties’ incomes are to be added together in order to determine a Basic Child Support Obligation (with each parent being responsible for a pro rata share, based on that parent’s percentage of the total combined income, plus some variables discussed below). In previous years, the combined income on the Chart “maxed-out” at $20,000. However, the maximum “combined income” has now been raised to $30,000 per month. This will result in a more realistic child support amount for high-income earners.
There have also been some additions to the basic child support obligation. For example, the older child adjustment (10% for all children over 12 years of age) is now mandatory, but the increase remains prorated if all children are not over 12. Another change is that the medical insurance adjustment has been clarified that the total cost of insurance is prorated and requires a parent to provide a breakdown of expenses. It also allows the court to adjust a parent’s obligation if a stepparent or domestic partner is the one providing medical insurance for the children.
Parenting Time Table
Revisions have been made to the Parenting Time Table. The parent who pays child support typically receives a downward adjustment based on the number of days per year the child is with that parent. Essentially, the range of dates were changed based on what schedules most parenting plans consist of. For example, essentially equal parenting time now begins at 164 days per year, because research showed that there was not much of a difference on what a parent was spending on a child when the child was in their care for 164 days vs. 182 days. The Parenting Time Table can be found in Section V.
Per the Guidelines, the Court has the authority to order a deviation of the child support amount (up or down) if fairness requires. Many parents who have dealt with calculating child support understand that while the guidelines are very comprehensive and helpful, it’s not always a one-size-fits-all approach. For this reason, the deviation section of the 2022 Child Support Guidelines was expanded greatly. There is now a clearer, more detailed explanation of the circumstances where deviations should be applied or considered by the Court.
On a normal joint tax return, parents are able to claim exemptions for the children, which results in a reduction of tax due. When the parties are divorced, or when they share children but are not married, the tax exemption for the children is commonly split, often with each parent being entitled to take the exemption in alternating years. Another method is for a parent to take the exemption for one of the children, while the other parent is entitled to the exemption on different child. The 2022 Guidelines have provided a lot more clarity when it comes to dealing with tax benefits. One very significant addition to the Guidelines is an outline of a procedure that must be followed to determine whether the condition to claim a tax benefit has been met. For example, if one parent is entitled to claim their child on their tax return but they are behind on child support, there is now a procedure that the other parent must follow to address the issue and determine whether he or she can claim the child instead.
Overall, the revisions made to the Child Support Guidelines for 2022 are great. The Guidelines have been simplified and expanded to make it easier for all parents, attorneys, and judges to come up with a fair and reasonable amount of child support in every case.
By: Logan Matura
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Let's Discuss Your Case - We're Here For You.
When dealing with a family matter issue, you do not have to go at it alone. Give us a call and we can discuss the entire case during a comprehensive attorney consultation.