Arizona Child Support Guidelines – Part I. Why were the Guidelines updated?

Arizona Child Support Guidelines – Part I. Why were the Guidelines updated?

Before launching into specifically what was done in the 2022 revisions to Arizona’s Child Support Guidelines, I explored where the changes came from, and why they were made.

The simple “why” answer is that every four years, states are supposed to review and update their Guidelines as necessary. This is federal law, and called the quadrennial review. But a deep dive into the Guidelines gives us a little more information about why they were re-written and where the new stuff came from.

The new Guidelines can be found here

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.  This is Section I, General Information about the Guidelines (it’s a part of the Guidelines themselves).    The Exec Summary tells us that the economic review of the Guidelines (meaning the basis for all those child support numbers on the tables) comes from an economic update described in a February 23, 2021 Report.  That Report can be found here, if you’re interested. 

The Report (which is not part of the Guidelines, and is 49 pages long) summarizes the needs of the revisions, and those needs and goals are helpful to review:

  • Reorganize the Guidelines to follow the CS Worksheet
  • Restyle them for ease of use
  • Update terminology (i.e. LDM and PT, not custody)
  • Replace “gross income” with “Child Support income”:  a big improvement in my mind, as “gross income” has radically different meanings if you’re an accountant or talking about the IRS
  • Clarify that the Guidelines’ reference to “income” is before any withholding!
  • Add military pay provisions
  • Talk more about overtime income
  • Talk more about underemployment and unemployment
  • Reference that spousal maintenance (alimony) is no longer deductible on taxes
  • Reference Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
  • Increase Guidelines CS amounts to reflect joint incomes up to $30,000 per month (from $20,000)
  • Eliminate adjustments for child and dependent care tax credits
  • Reference use of a new spouse’s medical policy for coverage
  • Add examples about how to calculate what it costs to cover a child with medical insurance (a very frequent mistake done by self-representeds and attorneys)
  • More identification of what is a child care cost
  • More reference to extraordinary child costs
  • Elimination of Parenting Time Table B (did anyone EVER use that?) and define “essentially equal parenting time” as when both parents have at least 164 days of PT
  • More examples of what is a deviation from the CS amount – and what isn’t
  • Better definition of unreimbursed/ uninsured medical expenses
  • Updated reference to child tax-related benefits
  • New discussion of  Title IV-D program and CS assigned to the State

The Report also addresses that several Federal laws, including the ACA and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA, 2017) affect certain Guidelines provisions.

What this set of revisions did NOT attempt to cover:

  1. Federal tax exemptions.    This issue is in flux with the federal government and the ACA and will be addressed if federal changes occur.
  2. Non-continuing or non-recurring income.   Section II(A)(1(d) states:   “The court has discretion to consider whether non-continuing or non-recurring income is considered income for purposes of calculating child support.  The court also has discretion to average fluctuating income over periods exceeding 1 year.”   The Guidelines did not attempt to mandate how the court should treat that income, leaving it to a case-by-case basis and discretion.   Regarding overtime income, New section II(A)(3) expands on how overtime income can be treated.  
  3. Insufficient funds for multiple CS orders.  

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