Child support payments are often required even when both parents have equal parenting time. The child support calculation is standard, and the same law applies to everyone. The purpose of child support in Arizona is for parents to share the costs of raising the child in proportion to their incomes. Parenting time impacts the amount of support ordered, but it is just one part of the calculation; it is not the calculation itself.
The Arizona child support calculation follows what is called the “income shares model.” This model tries to approximate what it would cost to raise a child if the parents were raising the child together. It’s more complex than this, but the income shares model basically says, “Parents who make the combined income that these two parents do would typically spend this amount each month on the child.”
The model takes the (pre-determined) total monthly costs to raise a child, and then divides the costs based on how much each parent makes and assigns them their share of the costs pro rata (which means in proportion to their income.) The calculation then credits the parent who will be paying child support for the amount of days the child is in their care, and comes up with the child support amount. The calculation can be confusing, so let’s walk through an example.
Pro Rata Income Calculation
Arizona’s calculation starts with figuring out each parents’ pro rata share of their combined income. (Pro rata is a legal term that means in proportion to each party’s incomes). This example shows how it works: Parent A makes $100k a year, Parent B makes $50k a year. Total income equals $150k. Parent A makes 67% of the parents’ combined income and Parent B makes 33% of the combined income. So Parent A’s pro rata share is 67%, and Parent B’s pro rata share is 33%.
Responsibility of Each Parent Based on Income (before considering parenting time)
For our purposes, let’s say it costs $3,000 per month to raise the child. Since Parent A makes 67% of the parents’ combined income, they are responsible for 67% of the $3,000 monthly cost to raise the child, or $2,000. Parent B is responsible for 33%, or $1,000.
Equal Parenting Time Equation
Since it costs $3,000 each month raise the child, we divide this amount by 30 days, so each day it costs $100/day to raise and care for the child. Parent A gets credited $100 for every day of parenting time, which under equal parenting time plan, is 15 days per month or $1,500.
Determining Total Child Support Payment
Since Parent A’s total obligation was $2,000, we subtract the credit received for parenting days, $1,500 and determine the child support obligation for Parent A. In this example, if Parent A pays Parent B $500 in child support, then both of them are at their pro rata share of the cost to raise the child.
Again, the thinking behind child support is that each parent pays their proportionate share of what they would have paid had they been living together raising the child. That is why Arizona courts order child support even when both parents have equal parenting time. (The above is a simplified version of the calculation for purposes of explaining the income shares model in this blog; the actual calculation gets more complex than this).