What are the factors in determining child support?
Written by Michael Juilfs

What are the factors in determining child support?

Child support in Arizona is calculated in a way that attempts to ensure that your children can have their needs met after your marriage ends just as they did when you were residing together. Whether you are the one who will pay or receive child support, you should know how the court calculates support. The factors used in determining child support will affect you as well as your children.

While Arizona uses a standardized statutory calculation to determine child support, a neutral financial professional in the collaborative divorce process can assist you and your spouse to develop options outside of the traditional system that may work better for your family. If you can reach an agreement that considers various factors, you can avoid some of the uncertainty a contested divorce brings.

What Are the Child’s Needs?

A child’s basic needs include food, clothing, and shelter. Beyond this, you will factor in the cost of health insurance (and who pays it), education costs, daycare, and any special needs your child may have. A key to determining the appropriate amount of child support is understanding and deciding best to pay for what your child(ren) will require.

Courts review and determine thousands of child support obligations every year. Although the judges are experienced at running the calculations and arriving at an outcome, they will never understand your children’s individual needs as well as you do. Collaborating to reach an agreement that is right for your family gives you and your spouse more control over the outcome. You can work with professionals to reach the right result, not for the average child, but for yours.

Child’s Activities

Divorce changes a child’s life. The fewer changes you introduce, the less disruption they will face. If your child has always played soccer (or has always wanted to), or if they enjoy other sports, music or art activities, the cost of these activities should be taken into consideration, above and beyond the child’s support for basic needs.

Both parents want what is best for their children. You can and should work together to find the best path forward here. The court’s calculations may not take into account some realities you face. By agreeing to an amount of support and a division of costs beyond the everyday expenses, you can take care of your children without creating hardship in either parent’s home.

How the Responsibility is Shared

In a case where the child spends more time with one parent than the other, even the “custodial” parent bears some of the costs involved in raising the child. Analyzing the custodial parent’s income, including whether that parent will pay or receive spousal support, factors into the equation.

Courts consider each parents’ gross incomes (before taxes and other deductions) and do not include adjustments for the parents’ living expenses. This calculation can become complicated if one or both parents are self-employed, are a contract worker, or have other non-traditional income. The child support calculation from the court often feels like too high of a number for the paying parent and too low a number for the receiving parent.

If you can work with your spouse, you can find a path that works for you, not the calculators. The collaborative process yields results that can both take care of the kids and leave you and your spouse ready to move forward.

In a case where the parents equally share time with the children, the costs of raising the children may be allocated differently. If the parents have similar incomes, there might not be child support paid by either parent, although children’s expenses can still be shared in some fashion – particularly out-of-pocket medical expenses and extra-curricular expenses. If the parents have dissimilar incomes, the higher-earning parent may still owe child support to the other parent even though they have equal time with the children.

Determining child support sometimes includes severe financial consideration. The courts do this in a one-size-fits-all way, but they will never understand your children’s lives and needs as well as you do. To learn how collaborative divorce can help with support payments, contact one of the professionals at Best Legal Choices.