How Can You Challenge a Child Support Order You Think Is Unfair?

Every child is entitled to financial support from their parents, even if the parents are not together. In divorce cases, the family courts must determine how child support obligations are allocated, which usually means ordering that one parent make periodic payments to the other. If either parent believes that the court’s support order was unfair or unjust, there are remedies available.

Arizona has a special court called the Child Support Modification Court. The CSMC only hears cases involving child support, including those in which a parent wants to challenge a ruling from the family court. Since the CSMC is not an appellate court, it has the authority to hear evidence and to modify support awards it finds to be unfair or unreasonable. Seeking relief from the CSMC has several advantages to taking the case to an appellate court. Among them are:  

  • Speed — A decision from the CSMC takes just one day, compared with the months that an appeal can take.
  • Simplicity — As a court of limited jurisdiction, the CSMC has standing procedures that are relatively simple. The system is designed to move cases forward quickly and efficiently.
  • Informal resolution — The court presents the litigants an opportunity to settle the matter at a conference with help from an experienced support officer.

There is a straightforward procedure for having a child support matter heard by the CSMC. The party seeking relief files a petition with the CSMC and serves copies of the document and court notice to the other party, known as the respondent. If the respondent is in Arizona, they have 20 days to file a response. If they are located outside of the state, the response time is 30 days. Upon receiving a response, the court schedules a conference at which the parties meet with a court officer and try to reach an agreement. If issues remain unresolved, the parties appear at an evidentiary hearing, which results in a final order. It is best to be represented by a qualified child support lawyer in any CSMC case.

A CSMC petition is not the only remedy available for challenging a child support order. A litigant may file an appeal to the Arizona Court of Appeals. However, appeals are restricted to correcting errors of law and/or procedure at the trial level. The appeals court does not hear the case anew nor receive additional evidence. If the case involves a novel issue of law, taking the matter to the appellate court may be the only way for a litigant to get the desired outcome.

Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C., in Scottsdale, Arizona serves family law clients throughout Maricopa County. If you need to challenge an unfair child support matter, contact us online or call 602-789-3497 for a consultation.