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Attributing income to an unemployed parent for child support

The ability to earn money is an absolute essential for life for anyone in Arizona. After all everyone needs to buy food, clothing and shelter. However, while everyone in Arizona needs a source of money, the amount each person earns can vary dramatically. Some work more hours than others and some earn a higher hourly wage or salary as well. Others rely on other sources of money, such as government programs, in order to survive.

Many people in Arizona are also parents and are required to financially provide for their child. If the child's parents are divorced or are no longer together in a relationship, this is generally accomplished through child support orders. The amount of the child support is determined by the child support guidelines. The main factor that the guidelines use is the amount of income each parent earns.

However, as stated above, the amount of income parents earn can vary. Some parents do not work full time or are unemployed. This does not automatically mean that the parent will not owe child support though. If the unemployment or underemployment is voluntary, the court can attribute income to that parent for child support purposes.

The amount attributed will depend on the parents work history and the reasons for the unemployment. However, at least minimum wage at 40 hours a week will be attributed unless the court determines that there is reasonable cause for the unemployment. These could be because of the parent's physical or mental disability, the parent is in school to be able to earn more money later on, unusual needs of the child requiring the parent to stay home and others.

The law in Arizona wants to ensure that children's needs are being met. Therefore, the court can attribute income to a parent who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. However, if certain factors are present that make the unemployment reasonable, the court does not have to attribute income. As always, each individual's circumstances are different, so those who need to learn more about how the state's child support guidelines will affect them may want seek legal assistance.

Source: Superior Court of Maricopa County, "Arizona Child Support Guidelines" accessed on April 11, 2016

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