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Child Support in the Arizona Family Court: How Do Social Security Benefits Fit In?  by Trent R. Wilcox, Esq.

Social Security benefits can affect child support in two ways. First, if either the parent paying child support (the "obligor") or the parent receiving child support (the "obligee") receives Social Security benefits, the Arizona Child Support Guidelines require that the Social Security benefits be included in determining either parents income. Thus, the Social Security benefits help to determine the initial child support obligation.

Second, the Social Security benefits can affect the amount of child support that must be paid out of pocket by the parent paying child support. Section 26 of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines addresses this issue and states verbatim as follows:

A. Income earned or money received by a child from any source other than court-ordered child support shall not be counted toward either parent’s child support obligation except as stated herein. However, income earned or money received by or on behalf of a person for whom child support is ordered to continue past the age of majority pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute Sections 25-320.B and 25-809.F may be credited against any child support obligation.

B. Benefits, such as Social Security Disability or Insurance, received by a custodial parent on behalf of a child, as a result of contributions made by the parent paying child support shall be credited as follows:

1. If the amount of the child's benefit for a given month is equal to or greater than the paying parent's child support obligation, then that parent's obligation is satisfied.

2. Any benefit received by the child for a given month in excess of the child support obligation shall not be treated as an arrearage payment nor as a credit toward future child support payments.C. Except as otherwise provided in section 5.B, any benefits received directly, and not on behalf of a child, by either the custodial parent or the parent paying child support as a result of his or her own contributions, shall be included as part of that parent’s gross income.

The interpretation of Section 26, above, minus some of the legalese, is really pretty simple:

A. If a child receives benefits from a source outside of the parent paying child support, it will not normally diminish the paying parent's child support obligation unless the Arizona Child Support Guidelines provide a specific exception. However, if a mentally or physically disabled child receives child support past the age of majority, those amounts may be credited toward the paying parent's child support obligation. Notice this is a "may" and not a "shall," meaning that the court has discretion in this child support matter.

B. If a child receives benefits, such as social security or insurance, because the paying parent made the child eligible to receive such benefits by paying into the system, those amounts will be credited toward the paying parent's child support obligation in the manners described. Notice this is a "shall" and not a "may," meaning that the court has no discretion in this child support matter.

C. As mentioned above, a parent who receives payments directly on his or her behalf must include those amounts in income totals used to calculate child support. However, the exception to this provision is provided by the Child Support Guidelines Section 5(B) which states, "Gross income does not include sums received as child support or benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs including, but not limited to, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Food Stamps and General Assistance."

In summary, Social Security and other benefits may affect child support calculations in Arizona. Consult an attorney in your jurisdiction to find out how your case will be affected.

Phoenix office:
3030 N. Central Ave., Ste. 705
Phoenix, Arizona 85012
Ph: 602-631-9555 Fx: 602-631-4004
Goodyear office:
1616 N. Litchfield Rd., Ste. 240
Goodyear, Arizona 85338
Ph: 623-344-7880 Fx: 602-631-4004
Visit our website: www.wilcoxlegal.com
Check out our web log: www.arizonafamilylaw.blogspot.com

Disclaimer: Providing the above information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. To create such a relationship, both the attorney and potential client must sign a written fee agreement. The information contained herein is meant only as general information and is not meant to be relied upon for the purpose of taking legal action. You should contact an attorney in person for further and specific information. Wilcox & Wilcox, P.C. attorneys are licensed in Arizona only except for personal injury attorney Robert N. Edwards, who is licensed in Arizona and Minnesota. Information in this article may apply only to Arizona.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Attorney Trent R. Wilcox is the managing partner of Wilcox & Wilcox, P.C. Mr. Wilcox practices in the areas of family law, employment disputes and general civil litigation. Mr. Wilcox is admitted to practice in the Arizona state courts and federal district court and is a member of the Maricopa County, Arizona State and American Bar Associations.

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