Parents may be relieved to learn that they don’t need to lawyer-up and fight a court battle to modify child support in Arizona. Even when parents disagree about child support, most can come to a mutual agreement without going to court, and spending a small fortune on attorneys fees with the help of “child support mediation.”
In mediation, a neutral divorce mediator helps parents find common ground, and reach agreements in a more respectful, and more affordable way compared to litigation in court.
Mediation begins with understanding Arizona divorce law about child support. However, parents in child support mediation can mutually agree to deviate from the law, as long as it is in the child’s best interest. Sometimes parents in mediation agree to a child support amount that is lower or higher than suggested by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.
The Arizona Child Support Guidelines, which affect the Arizona Child Support Calculator, were changed effective June 30, 2015. The new calculation applies to all modifications calculated after June 30. The changes were minor, but if your existing order would change by more than 15% under the new guidelines, the court deems you eligible to modify child support.
Under Arizona law, the court will look to whether there has been a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances” in deciding whether to modify child support. A judge has great discretion and often times, neither parent is satisfied with a judge decided outcome in court.
A “change in circumstances” may be a change in income of one or both parents, recent unemployment of a parent or a change in parenting time. A change in more or less costs and expenses for minor children may be considered. In cases when child support covers more than one child, and each child reaches the age of 18, child support modification is required before the total amount can be reduced.
How to Modify Child Support in AZ through Mediation
In mediation, parents have a discussion about the “changes in circumstances” that are happening in their lives. Both parents have an opportunity to be heard. Your mediator will guide a conversation about the children’s actual needs and expenses and help foster communication about the needs of both parents. Conflict is de-escalated as a result of healthier communication. In the end, parents can come to a better understanding of current circumstances, and find common ground on a child support agreement.
Sometimes, other parenting issues are raised during mediation. Parents may be able to address and improve other aspects of their parenting plan for the benefit of both parents and their children.
Parenting time in Arizona can be mediated and modified, as well as legal decision-making authority. When parents resolve parenting issues without the stress of court, and in the privacy of mediation they are protecting the well-being of their children. Mediation can even sometimes lead to improved communication between parents after the process.
If you have a mediation or dispute resolution clause in your Arizona Divorce Decree or just prefer to keep conflict and cost low in a simple and confidential process to modify child support in Arizona, child support mediation is most likely right for you.