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What Happens to Support Arrears Once Your Kids Are Grown?

Used gavel on a stack of money.

It’s well known that child support obligations generally come to an end once the child is no longer a minor. However, child support arrears may have a much longer lifespan.

Child support, or maintenance, is determined according to Arizona Child Support Guidelines, which are based on a child’s age at the time the child support order went into effect and the incomes of both parents. Other factors, such as medical issues and other costs, may also come to play in the determination. Once that monthly amount is determined and the court has issued an order, the non-custodial parent is obligated to make regular, on-time child support payments.

To avoid any misunderstandings or misrepresentations of what has been paid or not, payments must be made through the Arizona Support Payment Clearing House. If the non-custodial parent fails to make regular payments, a balance owed will start to accrue — possibly to a level of arrears that can become overwhelming and difficult to pay off.

After your youngest child turns 18 or otherwise becomes emancipated, the obligation to pay child support ends. But if child support is owed from the period before your child reached that milestone, the non-custodial parent is still obligated to pay down that debt. Some parents may be surprised to learn that even if their child is well into adulthood — perhaps with children of their own — they still owe any remaining child support debt.

If your child support payer is in arrears, you may have some options for relief, which a family law attorney with experience in child support can help you pursue. These include going to court to seek a judgment allowing such collection methods as garnishing the paying spouse’s wages, seizing his or her accounts and property and suspending professional and driver licenses.

Since 2009, Arizona has offered a settlement program through the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). This program helps parents who have high amounts of child support in arrears to come to an agreement with the custodial parent, such as payment of one lump sum in exchange for forgiving the debt. .

However, there is a three-year limit, running from the date of the child’s emancipation as an adult, for bringing legal action to collect on child support arrears. The limitation exists whether the action is brought by the DCSS or by the recipient parent.

If you are a recipient of child support that is in arrears, it’s important to quickly move to enforce the obligation, especially if the child is nearing adulthood. Clark & Schloss Family Law, P.C. has successfully helped hundreds of Arizona clients resolve child support matters. Call 602-789-3497 or contact us online for a free consultation at our Scottsdale office.

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