If you have an order for your child’s other parent to pay child support, that parent must continue to pay child support on time and in full until the child support obligation ends, which in Arizona is usually when the child turns 19. This article provides an overview of what you, as the custodial parent, can do if your child’s other parent, the noncustodial parent, isn’t paying child support on time, in full, or at all. If you have questions about how to enforce your child support order, you should speak to an Arizona family law attorney.
Once you, as the custodial parent, have an order for child support, the noncustodial parent (or paying parent) must pay the amount ordered on time and in accordance with the order, usually every week or every two weeks, until the order ends.
If the noncustodial parent doesn’t pay, it is considered a violation of the order. Once the payments are missed, you can “enforce” your order, which means you can ask the Arizona Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) or a court to help you get the financial support that your child needs.
If you or your child receives public assistance, DCSS’s services are free and you will automatically be referred to DCSS for help.
If you or your child are not receiving public assistance, you will have to apply to DCSS for their services (Form CS-167, Request for Title IV-D Child Support Services). The application is free, but once your case is opened, a minimal fee may apply.
DCSS can use the following methods to encourage or force a parent to pay child support:
In order for any of these methods of enforcement to take effect, DCSS must notify the noncustodial parent in advance. The notice that DCSS sends to the noncustodial parent includes instructions on how to challenge the action.
You can hire a private attorney to go to court and ask a family law judge to enforce a child support order and issue new orders aimed at collecting overdue payments. This will likely cost much more than DCSS charges for its services, but it may be faster depending on how busy your local DCSS office is.
In addition to the above enforcement methods, there is one additional tool that a judge can use to enforce child support: civil contempt of court. You must go to court and ask a judge to issue a contempt order against the delinquent parent. When a person is held in “contempt,” it means that they have not done what a court has ordered them to do.
When an owing parent is at least 30 days behind in payments, then you, your attorney, or DCSS can ask a judge to find the parent in contempt. Again, the owing parent must receive property notice of your contempt request and told to when and where to appear in court. If you or DCSS proves that the other parent has purposefully or intentionally failed to pay the child support order, the owing parent will be found to be in contempt of the order. Possible penalties of being found in contempt include fines or jail time.
See the DCSS website for more information, including contact information.
For the full text of the laws regarding child support enforcement in Arizona, see Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 25-500 through 25-530.