Many of my Phoenix divorce mediation clients have asked me this question, so I thought I’d provide some general information on when one or both parents can modify their child support. Arizona law provides that child support may be “modified or terminated upon a showing of changed circumstances that is substantial and continuing…” A.R.S. 25-503(E) (emphasis added). The key words are “substantial and continuing.” These can mean many things, but typically the following circumstances could apply:
• Adding Health Insurance Coverage
• A Change in the Availability of Health Insurance Coverage
• The Loss of a Job
• Increases in Income
• Decreases in Income
• The Birth of a Child
If these types of circumstances have occurred, a parent can petition to modify his or her Arizona child support amount. There does not seem to be a hard and fast rule on how often one can request a modification for Arizona child support, but courts typically like to see a change in circumstances that will last for six months or longer. For unemployment, it is typically expected to last 90 days or more.
Note that the new Legal Decision-Making (Custody) and Parenting Time Laws have clarified that a parent must wait at least one (1) year before petitioning to modify Legal Decision-Making (Custody) or Parenting Time unless there is a threat to the child’s welfare or there is evidence of domestic violence or abuse. Also, if one parent has failed to comply with a joint Legal Decision-Making (Custody) Order, the other parent only has to wait six (6) months before petitioning to modify the Order.
After a divorce, most parents are required to attempt mediation before pursuing a change in their Parenting Plan. In mediation, many parents actually reach a mutual agreement on modification of Child Support (and/or Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time). When my mediation clients reach such agreements, they can simply file the modification jointly with the court and it will usually be granted. This saves time, costs and stress for parents and allows them to keep focusing on what’s most important – parenting and enjoying their kids!
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