How does Arizona child support collection work?

Sometimes non-custodial parents who have been separated from their child for some time are surprised when they are contacted by the Arizona Department of Child Support Services. However, in Arizona, that contact is generated automatically whenever a custodial parent applies for state assistance through the Arizona Department of Economic Security. That contact can also occur if the custodial parent voluntarily reaches out to DCSS to assist them in getting child support payments.

If DCSS contacts you about your alleged obligation to pay child support, then you will be faced with two options. Either you can voluntarily accept paternity of the child, or you can submit to genetic testing to determine paternity.

If paternity is established and you are determined to be a parent, then DCSS will petition the court for child support using a state approved formula based on income and assets. The judge will make the final determination as to the level of the child support payments and then make that amount official with a court order.

After you begin making your child support payments, DES will subtract any money the custodial parent has received from the state from those payments and then distribute the rest to the custodial parent.

If paternity has been established and you have failed to make your child support payments, then the court will sometimes issue a warrant for your arrest for failure to pay child support. If captured, you can be held until you render a sum of money determined by the judge and known as a "purge amount" before being released from custody.

If you are a parent being sought by child support enforcement, you should know that a child support order can be modified. Assuming paternity has already been established, you can petition the court for relief from your current child support payments. Circumstances in your health, income or loss of property or assets could go a long way towards reducing your child support payments.

Source: Arizona Department of Economic Security, "Division of Child Support Services Program Overview" Aug. 21, 2014

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