Questions & Answers / What is "child support" and how is it determined?

What is "child support" and how is it determined?

Child support is the money paid by one parent to the other in order to provide for the needs of the child. In Arizona, both parents are expected to support the child. The amount is determined by a formula. The paperwork for the formula works very much like income tax paperwork and forms, and there are automated calculators available for use on a computer.    The total amount of support due to the child will include amounts due from each parent, with additional amounts added for special individual family needs regarding child care, special needs, medical and educational expenses. The formula also adds in an extra percentage when kids reach teenage, because teenagers tend to be more expensive to raise. The total amount will be split between the two based upon their percentage of total joint income. Whether either parent gets support, and how much they get will be determined based upon how much parenting time each has. If physical custody is 50-50, then the parents are expected to share the expenses such as food, clothing, school fees, etc., equally. If one parent is the primary residential parent, it’s expected that this parent provides the basics for the child and so that parent will get the majority of the total support, with that amount being reduced slightly to account for the costs of the other parent while exercising parenting time.    The formula does not account for extracurricular activities, gifts by either parent, private cellular telephones for the children, college, car and car insurance expenses for older teens, or other items which might be considered dependent upon the goodwill of the parent who chooses to give these items to the children. In general, it is in a parent’s and child’s best interests to maintain a good relationship between the child and the other parent so that the other parent will feel a continuing interest in providing these extras if they can afford it. The court will not generally force a parent to provide these items in addition to ordinary child support. However, parents who choose to write the costs of these items into their divorce decrees (when the decrees are agreed upon) are permitted to do so and the courts will generally uphold and enforce these promises.       Back to Frequently Asked Family Law Questions