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Court reviewing state child support guidelines

Calculation of child support payments in Arizona follows guidelines issued by the state Supreme Court. The Court is considering changes to these guidelines because of Arizona's minimum wage increases and new federal regulations. These will impact support calculations and parents' finances.

Arizona voters approved a referendum requiring minimum wage increases in the state in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Without changes to support guidelines, minimum wage workers would be unreasonably harmed by a calculation formula in the current child support guidelines known as the self-support reserve. This is used to evaluate and determine whether a parent can afford to pay support while keeping a minimum standard of living.

Lower-income workers may have to pay a higher percentage of their earnings for child support unless the SSR is also increased. The Committee drafting these changes for the Court recommended SSR changes based upon a percentage allowing escalation of the minimum wage without inflicting harm to the financial needs of low-wage workers.

The new federal regulations prohibit states from treating time in jail as voluntary unemployment while issuing or modifying child support orders. The proposed guidelines address this regulation.

The Committee also recommended changes in the state's child support guidelines that coincide with language in recently-approved laws. For example, the term primary parenting time will replace the word custody in the guidelines.

The Committee made other recommendations that makes the support process easier to understand and provides guidance support calculations for third-party care providers, such as grandparents or guardians, who give primary parenting care. The Committee did not recommend changes to the schedule of basic support obligations.

The Chief Justice established this committee in July to review the state's guidelines and to recommend changes so that parents owing support are not harmed by its minimum wage changes and that the state complies with the new federal regulations. The Committee is seeking public comment on its recommendations and will hold a public hearing later this month.

An attorney can help parents comply with support guidelines. They can also help seek a fair support order that serves the best interest of the child.

Source: San Tan Valley, "Minimum wage change & its impact on child support, call for comment," Oct. 11, 2017

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