Cohen Family Law regularly works with clients to resolve child support arrears in Arizona. Whether you are seeking to recover child support arrears from your ex, or you have fallen behind on your child support payments due to financial difficulty, you need the informed representation we provide.
Our legal team is dedicated to helping clients find innovative solutions to their family law issues. Founding attorney Mitchell E. Cohen has extensive experience mediating child support disputes. When you become our client, you will have peace of mind knowing that your family’s rights will be protected.
What are Child Support Arrears in Arizona?
Child support orders and agreements are legally binding. Once child support is set by the court or agreed upon by the parties, the noncustodial parent must pay the required amount each month. Payments that are missed, whether inadvertently or intentionally, are known as child support arrears.
Missed payments can cause financial harm to a family that relies on the money and result in the paying parent owing more because interest can be charged on arrears. In Arizona, child support payments that go into arrears are charged interest at 10 percent per year, beginning the month after the first missed payment.
One of the common reasons paying parents miss child support payments is because they disagree with the amount of the child support order. At times, paying parents may mistakenly believe that the children require less money as they grow older. In any event, these are not legitimate reasons for missing legally binding child support payments.
How Cohen Family Law Can Help
If your ex has stopped making child support payments, our family law attorneys can take legal action to enforce the order and obtain the arrears. If you are the paying parent and your child support payments are in arrears, we can help to explore your options. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to settle the debt with your ex or ask the court to modify the child support order.
Enforcing a Child Support Order in Arizona
When a parent fails to make child support payments, the custodial parent can ask the court to enforce the order to obtain the arrears. To do so, it is necessary to (1) file a legal document with the court referred to as an “Order to Show Cause” and (2) serve the order on the nonpaying parent. That’s where Cohen Family Law comes in.
We will handle all the details of your child support matter: filing the order, serving your ex, and representing you at the hearing. If the court determines that the child support order was violated without a valid reason (without “cause), a judge can enforce the order by:
- Garnishing the paying parent’s wages
- Seizing his or her bank accounts
- Placing a lien on his or her personal property
A parent that repeatedly fails to make child support payments may also be held in contempt of court and face prison time and fines. The courts are generally reluctant to take this step because the paying parent will not be able to earn the income to pay both the arrears and the ongoing child support obligations if incarcerated.
Can Child Support Arrears Be Reduced in Arizona?
In some cases, the noncustodial parent may have legitimate reasons for not making child support payments, such as involuntary job loss, a medical emergency, or unexpected expenses. Nonetheless, the support order or agreement remains in effect and the child support arrears can quickly spiral out of control. Fortunately, a Settlement Program is available through the Arizona Division of Child Services (DCCS).
The program allows parents who are behind on their payments to reach an agreement with the custodial parent and the state to settle the debt. In short, the parent who owes makes a lump sum payment to clear the debt and agrees to continue paying child support according to the agreement.
It is important to note that this is a voluntary program — the custodial spouse is not obligated to agree to settle the debt. Moreover, the settlement agreement is subject to court approval.
Finally, another option is to seek a modification of the support order or agreement. Under Arizona law, however, there must be “substantial and continuing” circumstances to warrant lowering the monthly payments.
Contact Our Experienced Arizona Child Support Arrears Attorneys
At Cohen Family Law, we are keenly aware the state of Arizona takes child support very seriously, and so do we. Our legal team has a proven history of helping custodial parents enforce child support orders and recovering arrears (with interest). We also work with paying parents who have fallen behind on their child support obligations through no fault of their own.
Although we prefer to resolve child support cases through the mediation process, our trial lawyers have the skills and experience to represent you in court. Above all, we will work to protect your interests, whether through negotiation or litigation. Please contact our office today for a consultation with one of our child support arrears attorneys.