“Deadbeat Dads” and Child Support Law in Arizona

Q: What happens if I fall behind in child support?

Under Arizona law, custody and visitation are known as “legal decision making” and “parenting time,” respectively and the courts strongly encourage both parents to support and be actively involved in their children’s lives. Sometimes that isn’t possible. Like when one parent is incarcerated or in rehab.

What happens if a noncustodial parent owes back child support and wants to come back into the child’s life?

While mothers can certainly fall behind in paying child support, it has historically been so overwhelmingly the case that fathers are the noncustodial, delinquent parent that they’ve been coined “deadbeat dads”. For noncustodial and delinquent parents who need family law representation, a skilled attorney can help them navigate their way back into their child’s life.

After entry of an initial child support order, either party can return to court to seek a modification based on a change in circumstances– which generally would impact by 15% or more the amount of the current child support award. Some of the possible scenarios upon which a modification may be sought include job loss or income reduction, disability or incarceration of the payer; changes in medical insurance or day care costs, or the emancipation of the child.

Parents who allow their delinquent child support obligation to accrue without seeking a modification could be subject to arrest. The courts have traditionally been very strict in enforcing child support orders and remain so, especially in cases where the delinquent parent can afford to pay but doesn’t do so.

Arizona’s Department of Economic Security “DES”, (which oversees child support services), has even taken to publicly shaming over 94 deadbeat parents on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The “@AzDES” Twitter account, calls them out with posts that read like this: “WANTED: #AZ Child Support Evader John Doe – Owes $18,243.68 #Deadbeat [+link to deadbeat’s profile containing complete personal information as well as a “mug shot”].

DES claims to have recently shifted its “culture” slightly from strictly enforcement to services and enforcement—at least with respect to indigent parents who fall behind on their child support. Nevertheless, delinquent parents remain understandably reluctant to approach DES directly fearing incarceration, and instead should seek the counsel of a skilled child support attorney.

If you are paying or receiving child support and your former partner seeks a modification of the amount of support, or the terms of custody or visitation, Cohen Family Law in Phoenix Arizona can help. Call 602-714-8898 to set up a free consultation.