Child support is generally modified one (1) of two(2) ways.
It can be modified by agreement of the parties. This is accomplished by preparing a stipulation and order which both parties sign and then provide to the Court for signing. This method still requires to parties to prepare and submit a child support worksheet even if the parties are agreeing to something other than what the guideline support would be under Arizona’s Child Support Guidelines. Obviously to go this route the parties have to be in agreement.
The second method of modifying child support is by filing a petition with the Court seeking a modification. There are two (2) procedures for petitioning the Court for a modification of child support when the modification is (or may be) contested.
Procedure 1: Simplified Procedure – This method is probably used more frequently. A party can file a petition using the simplified procedure if the amount of monthly support would be fifteen percent (15%) more or less than the current order based on the new information. Once the petition is filed it is then served on the other party and they have an opportunity to request a hearing. If no hearing is requested the Court will enter the new child support order. If a hearing is requested then the case will be set for a conference and hearing before a Family Court Commissioner. The conference and hearing are scheduled on the same day. At the conference you meet with a conference officer (or a representative from DES if it is a IV-D case) and they try to get the parties to reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached during the conference, it is reduced to writing and entered as the new order. If no agreement is reached then you go to the Commissioner’s courtroom and the Commissioner will hear evidence and decide whether to modify support.
Procedure 2: Standard Procedure – In order to seek a modification using the standard procedure, a party files a petition and must allege a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. For example, if one parent were responsible for providing health insurance coverage under the current order but was no longer able to do so (if they lost their job, or their benefits, etc…) and now the other parent is providing health insurance at a monthly cost. This would be an example of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. This is just one example and there are many different factual scenarios that may qualify as a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. It is also important to note that generally a petition filed using the standard procedure is set before your assigned Family Court Judge and you are not immediately scheduled for a conference first.
Ultimately there are a multitude of circumstances that may warrant a modification of child support and it would be best to consult with an attorney before attempting a modification on your own. We see countless cases where one party seeks a modification and because they are unfamiliar with the process they end up having the modification denied (which is usually at least four to six months of time wasted) or even worse the Judge modifies support but completely opposite to what was requested (a petition for a downward modification results in an increase of support or vice versa).
This answer is for informational purposes only. It is not intended, nor should it be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship shall exist unless and until an agreement for legal services is reached between attorney and client, and a legal services contract is fully executed by and between attorney and client.