Every parent has a duty to provide financial support to their legal children. This includes biological children and adopted children. This is a legal duty that remains in place regardless of whether the parents of a child separate or get divorced. When parents do separate or divorce, however, the court will often use a legally binding child support agreement to enforce this legal responsibility to provide financial support to a child. Child support obligations established by the child support agreement are legally binding on both parents. Failure to meet a child support payment obligation means that an unpaid child support debt will begin to accrue and is referred to as child support arrears.
If you are in arrears on your child support obligation, it is likely because you are facing financial difficulties. As such, the arrears amount may continue to grow and look increasingly insurmountable. You may, as a result, be wondering whether you can ever get a reduction of child support arrears in Arizona.
Can You Get a Reduction of Child Support Arrears in Arizona?
Child support arrears do not go away. They outlast the child support obligation itself meaning that even when your child turns 18 or graduates high school, any unpaid child support obligation will remain in place and remain your responsibility to pay. You may be able to get a child support arrears reduction, but it can be difficult. This is because the court’s primary responsibility is to protect the best interests of the child, including working to ensure that the child has access to necessary financial resources. This trumps any financial difficulties a court may otherwise be sympathetic to.
In order to pursue a reduction in child support arrears, a non-custodial parent may seek participation in Arizona’s Division of Child Support Enforcement’s (DCSE) settlement program. In this program, DCSE has the ability to negotiate directly with the non-custodial parent in order to reach a settlement agreement regarding outstanding child support arrears obligation. If all parties, including the custodial parent, agree to the terms of the settlement, it will be submitted for court approval. Participation in the settlement program also means that any wage garnishment you may have been going through due to the arrears will stop.
While a settlement agreement for a reduction in the child support arrears amount may be a strong option, it can be much more difficult or nearly impossible to get the court to approve waiving child support arrears completely. This can be even more true when the arrears amount is actually owed to the state. If the amount is due to the custodial parent, however, then he or she can waive the arrears amount. The waiver will still need to be approved by the court.
As you may be seeking a reduction in child support arrears, you may also want to consider seeking modification of your existing child support obligation. A reduction can help you get current on your child support arrears as well as make the payments more manageable. In order to successfully seek a modification of an existing child support order, however, you must be able to show the court that a substantial and continuing change of circumstances has occurred. This may involve a significant change in parenting time or a significant change in income due to something such as loss of employment.
Family Law Attorney
If you need help with child support arrears or an existing child support obligation, talk to the dedicated team at Cohen Family Law about your options. Contact us today.