In Arizona, child support is calculated by application of a formula known as the Arizona Supreme Court Child Support Guidelines.
This lengthy and complicated formula provides the parties and the Court with a presumptive amount of child support that should be ordered. Courts have some limited discretion to deviate from this amount under unusual circumstances.
The primary factors contributing to the calculation of the child support amount are: 1) the incomes of both parents, and 2) the amount of time that the children spend with each parent. In brief, the more a parent earns and the greater the difference in the incomes of the parties, the more that parent will pay in child support or the less that parent will receive in child support. This results from the formula as the formula increases the amount presumed for child related costs as parent’s incomes increase, as well as one of the goals of child support being to have the children experience similar lifestyles with each parent which results in some income re-distribution.
Also, the more time that the children are with that parent, the less they will pay in child support or the more they will receive in child support. For the receiving spouse, this reflects that as the children are in their care more of the time, the amount needed for support increases. For the paying parent, this is not necessarily a reduction in the amount spent to support the children, but rather as the children live with that parent more of the time, less of the support is paid to the other parent, and more of the support is presumed to be spent on child related expenses such as food, clothes, and shelter.
In addition to the true child support amount described above, child support is used to distribute certain expenses such as the cost of daycare and medical insurance proportionate to the incomes of both parents. Assume for a moment that the child support resulting from the incomes and parenting time is $1,000.00 per month paid by Wife to Husband. Assume further that Herman (the Husband) earns $4o,ooo.oo per year and that Wendy (the Wife) earns $60,000.00 per year. If Herman buys medical insurance that costs $100 per month, this is then factored into the child support. Wendy should be paying 60% (as she earns $60,000 of the combined $100,000) of the insurance, or $60.00. This amount is then added into child support increasing child support to $1,060.00 per month. Now assume that Wendy pays $400 per month for daycare costs of the children. Herman needs to reimburse Wendy for his 40% of this cost, or $160.00 per month. This amount is then deducted from the child support Herman receives, so that instead of $1,060.00 per month, Herman receives $900.00 per month. In summary, Herman’s $900 per month is $1000 per month of true child support, plus an additional $60 per month to reimburse him for Wendy’s 60% of the medical insurance, less his 40% of the day care costs or $160.00.
As a result of the sharing of the medical insurance costs proportionate to the incomes of the parties, I generally advise clients to get the best coverage for the lowest price, regardless of which parent’s insurance this is. The costs are then shared proportionate to incomes.
There are many other factors that must be considered when calculating child support, and this short chapter is not intended to be inclusive, but rather to discuss the larger factors of child support.