Generally speaking, child support is awarded to the residential parent, who is the parent with whom the children are spending a majority of the time. The only exception occurs when each parent has the children half the time but one parent earns less than the other; then, the lesser wage earner receives child support, albeit in a significantly reduced amount. In addition, a child support award is reduced the more time the non-residential parent has the children.
Although this seems to be the most equitable way to award child support, such a formula can invite each parent to jockey for greater time with the children in order to either receive more or pay less child support. Such jockeying, however, leaves the best interests of the children as a secondary consideration to financial gain. If such a motivation becomes evident to the court, it will not go well for the parent employing such machinations. If there is any primary focus in a divorce case, it is the welfare of the children.
The other factors used in determining the child support award, in addition to the amount of time each parent spends with the children, are income of the parties, cost of medical insurance for the children, cost of child care and unusual educational expenses such as private school tuition or tutoring. In addition, in Arizona payment of the child support obligation must occur by wage assignment (garnishment) of the obligor parent’s wages. The child support obligation continues until a child graduates from high school or turns 18 years of age, whichever occurs sooner.