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

  • My husband apparently owes $40,000 to arrears. He has been garnished for two years now and the amount on the statements does not go down, is there something wrong with this? Plus even though he pays child support and arrears they just now put a hold on his bank account, can they do this?
  • 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
  • I have a 3 year old son and his father and i are separated for a year and 5 months. I also have a domestic abuse protection order against my son's father, my question is.. can I apply for child support with no visitation? and also do I still have to face him in court for child support?
  • I need to file for child support but I don't know where to start
  • What should you do if you have lost your job and cannot afford to pay child support?
  • I pay close to $600 of child support and i only see my son 1 day the mom doesn’t provide formula I’m I supposed to buy food for baby if I pay child support ? Also if baby is sick mom doesn’t tell me when I pick baby up as she only leaves him outside the door
  • We mailed in our divorce documents to the court, and when returned signed by the judge it doesn't have an Atlas number, or child support commence date. My ex wife claims she has it and it isn't given to the father paying child support. Did the child support not actually become obligatory? I have been paying directly by check because I have never recieved any further correspondence or direction from the court. Thank you!
  • I have been living in Arizona for the last 10 years but have 3 children in California. I have tried to work at child support arrangemmetns privately with the mother of my children but have not been able to come to an agreement. I have two children now in AZ that i pay child support for no problem. How do I go about starting child support case living in AZ for CA. I am also in the process of getting married to my childrens mother in AZ so I may not sure how this would affect my child support case in CA. Wanting to care of my kids but mom wont allow me to do so.
  • What were to happen if I filed for child support while the other parent is in prison?
  • Des found my ex to be 12,000 dollars in arrears, without my requesting anything. My ex is fighting it and Im being brought into court. Des is not providing any representation for their findings leaving me out and being responsible for attorney fees. Des was correct in its findings but i cant get documentation on any prior preceedings?

STORIES

LegalLEARN

FIND LEGAL HELP

  • Please select your county of residence below.

    County:
     

OTHER LEGAL RESOURCES

  • State Bar of Arizona
    www.azbar.org
  • Maricopa County Bar
    www.maricopabar.org
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    www.pimacountybar.org
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    800-799-7233
  • Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
    866-553-0893
  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program
    Link

ORGANIZATIONS