Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What is the basis for a modification of your child support under the Arizona Child support guidelines?

By. Jessica M. Cotter, Esq.

Child support may be modified if there is a substantial and continuing change in the circumstances of either parent.  Such a change must be due to circumstances that are not voluntary, such as an increase or decrease in health insurance cost, daycare costs or a change in parenting time that would result in an increase or decrease of at least 15% in the paying parent’s child support obligation.  You should always speak with an experienced family law attorney to review and discuss such matters.


Change of income:
 Father support obligation is $300.00 per month. Father loses his job due to layoffs and is unable obtain another job at the same income.  Should this change in income result in his child support obligation being reduced to $200.00 per month we can see that this is a reduction of 33%.  As this is a reduction greater than 15% , Father  could Petition the family court to have his child support reduced.

Change of day care cost:
Mother’s support obligation is $500.00 per month.  Father is paying the child care cost.  When the child starts school the child care cost is reduced significantly and this would result in Mother’s child support obligation being reduced to $300.00 per month.   Since his is a 40% change in the child support obligation Mother could file a petition with the family court to have her child support obligation reduced.

Change of health insurance cost:
Father’s child support obligation is $400.00 a month.  Father was paying the health insurance cost for the minor children.  Due to the soaring premium Father stopped paying the health insurance cost for the children. Mother then started paying the health insurance cost for the children resulting in Father’s obligation increasing to $600.00 per month.  Since this is a 33% difference in the child support Mother would be able to Petition the court to have the child support increased.

Parenting time:
 The parents share equal parenting time with the children.  Since the parents’ have approximately equal incomes, and approximately equal child care and health insurance costs, there is no child support ordered.  Mother moves to far enough away from the children’s school to result in a change in the parenting plan, resulting in the children residing primarily with father. This would result in a child support obligation from Mother to Father in the amount of $150.00 per month.  Since this is a 100% change in the support obligation, Father could Petition the family Court to modify the child support to receive $150.00 per month.

The above examples only involved change in one of the factors that the Court considers in calculating the child support. If more than one factor changes it can change the outcome. Everyone should have their child support reviewed by an attorney whenever there is a major life change or at least every two year. Child support cannot be retroactively modified. The modification can only take effect the first day of the month after a Petition to modify the child support is served.

Source: The Arizona Child support Guidelines June 1, 2011

The Law Firm of Jessica  M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
18301 North 79th ave 
Suite F-186
Glendale, Arizona 85308

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Guardian and Conservator appointments through your Will

By Harry J. Lenaburg, Esq.  

My wife and I recently spent a weekend caring for our four grandchildren, and the thought came to my mind how unprepared many young parents are for the possibility that something may happen to either or both of them.  Who will care for their children, and who will watch over their finances?
Consideration must be given to who will physically care for the children in the event of the death, or total incapacity of both parents.  Who is it that you believe can best care for and raise your child or children?  Often a sibling will be willing and able to do so.  Grandparents are almost always willing to do so.  Young parents must thoughtfully review their options, and make the choice that in their hearts serves the best interest of their child or children.
A Will is the usual instrument used to state your chosen preference for Guardian and Conservator for your child or children.  In the event of your death or incapacity the probate court, which is the court with jurisdiction, will generally honor your nomination. 
While the Guardian takes care of the physical needs of the child or children the Conservator is responsible for the finances of the child.  Although the same person may be nominated as both Guardian and Conservator, the same person does not necessarily have to be so appointed.  Many of us have friends, or family members who are somewhat challenged when it comes to properly handling their finances.  Likewise we have friends and family members who are strong in financial areas.  Remember, this is your children whose future you are contemplating.  Sometimes the best person to care for a child is different from the one who will best watch the finances.
Young parents should be thoughtfully discussing these matters, and reaching a consensus on whom they wish to nominate as the Guardian and Conservator for their child or children.  It is important that you verify with the people you wish to nominate for these important positions that they are willing and able to accept the honor and the responsibilities that you are proposing.  It is also good practice to propose an alternate Guardian and Conservator, in case for the reason the original nominee or nominees must decline the position due to changes in their circumstances.

The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
18301 N. 79th Ave. Ste f-168
Glendale, AZ 85308

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How is a parent’s gross income determined for the purposes of calculating child support in Arizona?

By Jessica M. Cotter, Esq and Harry Lenaburg, Esq. 

A key component in calculating child support is determining the parent’s gross monthly income. The court can do this by a review of the parent’s pay check, determining the hourly rate and then multiplying by either a 40 hour work week or the appropriate work week of the parent.   The weekly amount is then multiplied by 4.33 weeks per month to calculate the monthly wage. For example

$10.00 x 40= $400.00 income per week
$400.00 x 4.33= $1,732.00 income per month

The court must also include commissions, bonuses, dividends , pensions ( if you are receiving one) interest or investment income, spousal maintenance, income received from a trust, Workers Compensation  or any other source of funds available to the parent.  Bonuses, commissions and other payments not received on a monthly basis will be annualized.

When dealing with these other sources of income or with a parent who is self employed the calculation is more complicated. Especially when a parent is self employed, as their income is not necessarily the gross monies reported on their federal income tax returns.   Adjustments may be made for business expenses, or other offsets, along with adjustments made due to depreciation reported on the tax return.

The Arizona child support guidelines look at other items that the parent may benefit from which may be considered as income for child support purposes. Some examples are a parent’s car allowance or use of a business vehicle that may also include personal use.   For military personal the court does consider BAH and BAS, as well as a value for base housing, as a portion of a parent’s gross monthly income.

These are merely examples of the factors which may be involved in the determination of gross income when a parent is not paid by a conventional hourly wage.  You are always best served by seeking the advice of an experienced family law attorney, but it is even more essential in those circumstances outlined above.

Source: Arizona Child Support Guidelines June 1, 2011

The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
18301 N. 79th Ave. , Ste 168
Glendale, Az 85308

Friday, March 8, 2013

How does child support work in Arizona

 By  Jessica M. Cotter, Esq

Calculating child support in Arizona is not always an easy task. It is a complex mathematical formula that is re-evaluated every several years to assure that it is in line with the current cost of living.  The court looks at the following information in order to determine child support to be paid:

              1.     The number of minor children of the relationship;
              2.     The ages of the children;
              3.     Both parents gross monthly incomes;
              4.     If either party is paying spousal maintenance;
              5.     If either party is receiving spousal maintenance;
              6.     If either parent has a child or children from another relationship and if either
                    parent is paying child support;
             7.     The cost of health insurance for the minor child/children only
             8.     The cost of daycare;
             9.     An adjustment of the amount of parenting time;
            10.    If there is any extraordinary ongoing costs for a child with special needs.

Once the court reviews all of the information the Judge or Commissioner inputs the information into a child support calculator which calculates the final collar amount for child support.  The above factors are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to calculating child support in the state of Arizona.

If you have questions, please contact an attorney in your area.

Source Arizona State Revised Statue §25-320

The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, Esq.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Communicate With Caution

     I am often astonished in matters involving legal decision making, and parenting time, to find out that there is a series of text or email exchanges between the parties which contain abusive or derogatory comments about the other parent.  I suppose that people can be thoughtless in their communications, but you must be aware that any such exchange stands a good chance of being presented as evidence in your parenting time evidentiary hearing.

     Once you are before a family court Judge, and any parenting time orders are entered, anticipate that you will be required to communicate by email exchanges, and directed to be civil, and to confine the email to either the particulars of the exchange of the children, or as information to the other parent about the latest parenting time.  The Judge will let you know that he or she anticipates that if difficulties arise, that the email thread will be presented, and the Judge will be looking to determine whether or not you have complied with those orders.

     You should make it a practice to communicate with the other parent by email, so everything is in writing, and thus documented.  Whether it is your initial email to the other parent, or your reply to an email you should always, always, always, draft it, then go away from it for a while, and come back to read it again.  We are all human, and it is easy to write something that you do not really mean, or that should be stated in a different way.  Always assume that what you email to the other parent will someday be presented to the Judge, either by opposing counsel, trying to demonstrate how unreasonable you are being, or by your own attorney, to demonstrate the opposite.

     So, communicate with caution.  Be aware of how your communication will sound weeks or months from now, in the heat of an evidentiary hearing.  Caution now will translate into more positive results in the future.

Posted by Harry J. Lenaburg, Esq.
Law firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.