In every divorce with minor children there will be a determination of child support using the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. The number of minor children in the family, their ages, any special needs they may have, all are relevant factors to consider when determining the amount of child support needed for their maintenance. But today’s article is about the parents’ gross income and how to identify it for purposes of calculating child support.
If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to download our free Child Support Calculator. We have free apps for both iPhone and Android devices, as well as a web calculator that you can use on your computer – all at SDSLawAz.com.
Gross Income – Include Parental Income from Every Source.
Both parents will contribute financially to their children’s care and maintenance, so each parent must provide complete income information. Grosse income for child support purposes goes beyond mere salary, wages, and tips. Essentially any source of income, even alimony, is included in the parents’ gross income for child support purposes. Although the parties’ tax returns from the past few years are helpful in indentifying and verifying income amounts and sources, it is not determinative. What is gross income and adjusted gross income for tax purposes is not the same as for child support purposes.
Here is a checklist of potential income sources for both parents that must be included when calculating child support:
— wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, bonuses, regular seasonal income
— dividends and interest on investments
— severance pay, pensions
— trust income
— capital gains
— parents’ social security benefits, worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits
— recurring gifts, prizes, lottery winnings
— spousal maintenance, or alimony
What Is Not Included in the Parents’ Gross Income?
What is not included in the calculation of child support is any support payments received under a separate child support order (as with a minor child from a previous marriage or relationship). Except in special circumstances (such as fraud, concealment, waste, and the like), the parent’s community property disposition is not included in gross income either, even when it is an income-generating asset. Furthermore, any means-based public assistance benefits are excluded from the recipient parent’s gross income. Those include benefits and monies received through the Food Stamps and General Assistance programs, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
Attributed Income to the Unemployed or Underemployed Parent.
Don’t expect unemployment or underemployment to allow you or the other parent to escape a child support obligation in Arizona. The Court has discretion to attribute income to either parent when there is no reasonable basis for the lack of a paying job or insufficiency of gainful employment.
Should the Court find that a parent had no reasonable cause for unemployment or underemployment, then the Court may attribute an amount of income that the parent should be earning given his or her age, education, experience, and so on. In any case, the Court may attribute at least the current minimum wage income to the low-income or no-income parent.
Is there ever a reasonable basis for unemployment or underemployment? Yes, there is. Under A.R.S. § 25-320, there are four circumstances the Court will accept as reasonable justification for why the parent cannot earn more income:
— The parent is mentally or physically disabled.
— The parent is studying and training for a better job or occupation that will increase earning capacity.
— The parent must stay at home to care for a child with special emotional or physical needs.
— The parent is receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
In those circumstances, the Court may decide not to attribute income to the unemployed or underemployed parent.
To read more about parental gross income for establishing child support payments, see our article on Parents’ Gross Income.