As a Phoenix Divorce Mediator, I am often called upon to assist parties in determining Child Support, whether the parties are divorcing, legally separating, or just establishing a co-parenting agreement. In Arizona, there are Child Support Guidelines that help determine the amount of Child Support that could be awarded in any given case. In Mediation, the parties mutually agree upon which figures to input into the Child Support calculator. For example, what do they want to enter as gross income? Are they going to include bonus income or other discretionary income? Are they going to attribute income to an unemployed or underemployed spouse? Are they going to include interest income? These are just a few of the discretionary issues that can dramatically affect how the Child Support numbers are calculated.
In Mediation, I typically suggest a couple look at their realistic financial situation and determine what are their child or children’s actual needs and expenses. How are these going to increase if the kids are dividing their time between two households? Is someone going to be paying the majority of the child care costs or groceries? Is one parent the one who typically purchases the clothing and toys? If we review the actual monthly expenses as a whole, most couples find that they can more readily reach agreement on the nature and amount of Child Support.
On June 1, 2011, new Child Support Guidelines went into effect. These are applicable to the entire state, wherever you live (e.g., Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Prescott). The New Guidelines update the child support obligations based on current economic data and also adopt technical language changes necessary to provide clarification for programming a web-based child support calculator. For example, language was added to provide guidance on how each parent can claim federal dependency exemptions proportionate to adjusted gross income. Additional clarification was added to provide notice to parents that some cases may require the completion of IRS Form 8332 (Release/Revocation of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent).
The new guidelines are effective for all Child Support Orders entered after May 31, 2011, whether they are original orders or modifications of previous orders, except in cases of default or as otherwise agreed upon by the parties. What does this mean? In Mediation, it means the parties can agree whether to use the Guidelines in effect at the time they filed their action or the new 2011 Guidelines. Additionally, if you have already finalized your Divorce, Legal Separation, and/or Parenting Plan and there is a variance of at least 15% between your existing child support order and an amount resulting from applying the new 2011 Guidelines, you may be able to modify your child support amount. Here is a link to the new Child Support Worksheet: 2011 Child Support Calculator
There are a lot of considerations in calculating a workable, mutually agreeable Child Support amount. A professional Mediator can assist parents in navigating through these complex issues. If you would like a copy of the entire 2011 Child Support Guidelines, please feel free to contact us at: info@AffordableMediationAZ.com.
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