Arizona Divorce Lawyer Discusses What You Need To Know About Child Support Even (Especially) After Your Divorce or Custody Case Has Ended

Submitted by Attorney Douglas C. Gardner

Even after a divorce (or a custody case in which the parties were never married) has concluded, both parties need to know certain basics about child support.  Failure to understand these can result in substantial financial harm to a person, and serious injustices can occur when the law is applied rigidly.

    1. Unpaid Child Support:  Pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-503(J), unpaid child support may not be collectable unless court  papers are filed within ten years after your youngest child is emancipated.  Once a final judgment for unpaid child support has been obtained, there is no further need to  renew the judgment.  However, failure to obtain a judgment for unpaid child support within ten years may result in forfeiture of claims for unpaid child support.


While this has been greatly expanded in recent years to assist the recipient in collecting child support, a person who sits on their rights may not be able to come in many years later and seek to collect monies that have never been pursued legally.

    1. Modification of Child Support:  The amount of child support can be modified if there is a “substantial and continuing change in circumstances.”  The amount of child support is determined by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, which is currently part of the Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-320.  Those guidelines are modified from time to time.


If incomes have changed, if insurance premiums have changed, if day care costs have changed, if additional children have been born or adopted, or if other financial issues related to the calculation of child support have occurred, you should speak with an attorney to see if this would result in a favorable change to your child support situation

    1. Termination of Child Support:  The obligation to pay child support for a child ends when the child reaches 18 (or when the  child is no longer attending high school, if the 18th birthday  comes before high school graduation).        Support for disabled children can go beyond those dates.


Keep in mind, however, that this references the “obligation.”  However, unless this is the last child, there is no automatic change.  A person wishing to reduce child support obligations for the emancipation of an older child will still need to request a modification for the remaining younger emancipated children. More on this below.


Also, if you believe your child is disabled to the point of not being able to provide for himself or herself, you should promptly contact an attorney to discuss obtaining an order that would continue child support beyond emancipation.

    1. Child Support Arrearages:  The law requires that if at a hearing to collect one month or more of child support arrearages, it  appears the payor is licensed or certified in an occupation or  profession or holds certain other State of Arizona business licenses or certificates, the matter will be referred to the licensing board, who may suspend the person’s license or put that license on probation.


If you are behind on your child support, contact an attorney to help you get this structured on a specific arrearage repayment plan.  If you are the recipient of a large unpaid child support, contact an attorney to assist you with getting the arrearage caught up and paid.

    1. Exchange of Information:  You are required to exchange certain information regarding child support every two years.

The law in Arizona requires the parties to exchange financial information every two years.  This allows each party to address whether they should request any update or revision of child support.

    1. Increase or decrease of child support:  There is no automatic increase in child support as a child reaches age 12, and no automatic decrease in child support as a child reaches 18 and is no longer attending high school, if support is still owed for another child.  But the amount can be modified at the time using procedures described in the Child Support Guidelines.


If you want to change child support, contact an attorney to assist you in getting the process started right away.

One of the greatest legal injustices that occurs often in family law cases occurs when parties have an “agreement” but not a court order to change child support.  You must understand that child support can only be changed by a court order.  When parties are in agreement, the Court will often sign the order without a trial or with a very abbreviated hearing to confirm the terms of the agreement.  However, without a court order, child support cannot really be changed.

Imagine the case in which in a divorce, Father receives the primary residential parent status, and Mother is ordered to pay $500.00 per month in child support.  One year later, the parties agree to have the child live instead with Mother, and “agree” to have no child support.  10 years later, the child is now turning 18, and Father goes back to Court and asks to have the 10 years of child support arrearages enforced.  The Court would have no choice but to enforce the only child support that was ever entered, which was the $500.00 child support order from the divorce.  As no child support was paid for 10 years, Mother now owes 120 months of $500.00 per month, or $60,000.00 plus a substantial amount of interest.  Do not let this happen to you.  If you have an “agreement” that is different than the actual court ordered child support amount, call an attorney immediately to try and get this resolved and corrected.

If you are involved in a divorce, legal separation, or annulment case or other case involving children, parenting time and legal decision making issues, and if you have determined that you need experienced legal representation, please call 800-899-2730 and ask to speak with Douglas C. Gardner, or visit our website at