Child Support Article


Child Support and Disabled Children Becoming Adults

In Arizona, child support typically ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens last. When a child has a disability, however, a parent’s responsibility to contribute support may continue, even beyond the age of 19.

 Since 1973, Arizona law gives family court judges the discretion to order a reasonable amount of support for the necessary expenses of a disabled adult. This special form of support is paid by the parent who is not primarily responsible for the care of the disabled person (the non-custodial parent/obligor) and is paid to the primary residential caretaker (the custodial parent/obligee).

 Although the disabled person is an adult, Arizona uses the child support guidelines as a means to assure that the costs of caring for a disabled adult is shared between both parents. As a result, an order for a disabled adult may look substantially similar to a child support order. For example, Arizona judges use the child support worksheet to calculate the appropriate amount of support (available to the public online at http://www.azcourts.gov/familylaw/2015-Child-Support-Calculator). The non-custodial parent may be ordered to make payments through the Arizona Child Support Clearinghouse. Any unpaid arrears may accrue interest and may not be dischargeable in bankruptcy.

 To begin the process, the custodial parent files a motion in an existing family court case. The same superior court case is used when the parties initially filed for divorce or filed for parenting orders (in non-marital cases). In some circumstances, the family court can order a non-custodial parent to pay support even if no family court case existed during the disabled person’s childhood.

 Before a court will order support, a parent needs to be named the legal custodial parent of an emancipated child. This critical step is typically handled by the probate court and assures two important factors have been considered: 1) the emancipated person is physically or mentally disabled and is unable to financially provide for herself and 2) a parent has been given legal authority to care for the disabled person.

The family court judge will also evaluate whether the disabled person’s disability began before she reached the age of majority. This element may be difficult to prove in mental illness cases, especially if no diagnosis was made until after the child turned 18. Medical documentation and expert testimony may be needed to prove that the person suffered the disability as a child.

 A family law or probate law attorney may be helpful in determining whether a family support order is appropriate. If you choose to consult with a lawyer, bring all relevant documentation, including: child support orders for the disabled person and any other minor children, prior probate court orders, recent and past medical documentation related to the disability, proof of ongoing medical expenses, proof of ongoing care related expenses, proof of any social security award, proof of costs of insurance premiums, recent paycheck stubs, recent tax return statements and any other information that may be relevant to the case.

Contributing Attorney Writer: Marty Zalevsky is an attorney at Donaldson Stewart P.C., where she practices in family and juvenile law.


Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • I pay child support in Arizona. Can the custodial parent receiving the support moved to another state?
  • I recently had to go to court over child support/arrears. I was ordered to pay more than i can afford and I'm a 100% disabled medical veteran who only receives that money alone. The court told me that I would have to send in the money and they would not be able to take it from me. I have only 3 months left until my child turns 18 and the child support turns into only arrears. I am willing to pay something, but i cannot afford what they told me to. I need all the information for my state laws that can either help me in the best possible solution. i have read where some never pay after disability.
  • My brother passed away very recently he leaves behind a minor child. He owed quite a bit child support arrears. He doesn't own any real property or assets. Does Child support payment stop? Or will DES come after my mom and I for the arrears?
  • My ex owes back child support and is going to recieve an inheritance. Can Child support collect back support from his inheritance?
  • What does "Return-Undesignated" mean when it is under the EVENT TITLE on the Docket for the Judges calendar? What is the average time for response to a blank motion filed with family court.
  • if another man signs my child birth certificate can I be required to pay child support
  • My husband was incarcerated for 15 years. my daughter is now 19, he is in massachusetts, I reside in Arizona with our daughter. He is now on disability, but doesn;t send us money. I want to go after him for back child support as I have health issues too and still supporting our daughter alone. Do I have rights and will someone help me?
  • Where do I find my ATLAS number
  • if my friend ask me to get her pregnant and she tells me I will not have to have any financial liability can she still take me for child support? what papers should we get signed so I wont be responsible for this child
  • Does someone who is in jail for not paying child support receive any credit toward his child support for each day he/she is incarcerated? The pastor from my church told me he believes it to be $100/day

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