Submitted by Attorney Karl Scholes
I will often have my divorce, or post-decree, clients ask me, “How much child support will I be receiving/paying?” My normal answer to them is a resoundingly, lawyerly, “It depends.”
When they press me for a more specific response, I tell them, “Well, we just need to apply the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.” I then proceed to instruct them as to what the Guidelines specify.
However, when they push back even more, I tell them, “Oh, you are looking for a “ball-park” calculation. That I can get for you.”
The remainder of this article is an explanation on how to come to a “ball-park ” child support calculation.
First, one should understand at least a little of the background about child support in Arizona. It is important to understand that Arizona law requires custodial and non-custodial parents to provide “reasonable support” for their minor children. A.R.S. §25-501(A). A parent’s child support obligation has priority over all other financial obligations of the parent. A.R.S. §25-501(C).
In addition, the court receives the authority to award child support under A.R.S. §25-320. This statute also makes it mandatory for the court to issue an order of child support as per the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, (unless the court finds that a deviation is necessary… which is a subject matter for another day.)
The Arizona Guidelines follow the Income Shares Model, which means that the total child support amount approximates the amount that would have been spent on the children if the parents and children were living together. The guidelines involve numerous intricacies, and for a full application, one should consult an attorney – who is experienced in using the Arizona Child Support Guidelines – as to how the guidelines apply to each individual case.
Second, to get a “ball-park” child support calculation, one must be able to answer the following questions:
1. What is the gross income of both parties? (Note, this issue sometimes becomes complicated, especially if one party is self-employed, has an income that is not easily ascertainable, or if one party is unemployed. Consult an attorney if there are any complications in your case.)
2. What is the number and ages of minor children involved? (Note, if this factor is complicated, please consult a mental health professional before seeking the advise of an attorney.)
3. What is the cost of medical/dental/vision insurance for the minor child(ren): The key to this factor is to find the cost for medical insurance for just the minor children. (Note, at times, this factor can be complicated as well. Please consult an attorney if there are any complications in your case.)
4. What are the monthly childcare costs for the minor children?
5. Are there any extra education expenses paid for the minor children?
6. Are there any extraordinary (gifted or handicapped) expenses for the minor children?
7. How many days, out of a year, will the non-custodial parent have with the minor children?
Third, the next step is to plug the numbers from the answers above into their corresponding areas in the Arizona child support calculator, which can be found here:
Fourth, once you have plugged in the numbers above into the calculator, it will dispense a number under the heading “Child Support Obligation to be paid by____________”. This is where you will have your “ball-park” child support number.
If there are complications in your child support case, or to get an exact child support calculation, contact a family law attorney who is experienced in using the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.
 While a “ball-park” calculation of child support may be important for purposes of settlement, or setting expectations, one should note that a full child support calculation should be done by an attorney who is experienced in using the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.