One factor in Arizona's child support calculation formula is how much time the children spend with each parent. Therefore, when the courts modify the amount of time the children spend with each parent, it is often appropriate to modify child support as well. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently issued a decision on a case where the trial court modified custody and parenting time, and then modified child support even though neither party had asked the court to do so. The case was Heidbreder v. Heidbreder, 230 Ariz.377, 284 P3d 888 (Ariz.App. 2012).
The Heiderbreders divorced in 2010, and agreed to joint custody and child support in the amount of $1,000 per month, paid by the father to the mother. Later, the mother filed a petition to modify the order to sole custody with supervised parenting time to father. The court granted the mother's petition at trial, and then took evidence regarding child support, even though neither party had asked the court to modify child support. After taking evidence, the court modified child support to $300, paid from the father to the mother. The mother appealed.
On appeal, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the trial court had the authority to modify child support on its own motion because the statute providing for modification of custody and parenting time allows for a modification of child support whenever a court modifies custody and parenting time. However, the court of appeals also held that parties must have reasonable notice of a child support hearing and must have the opportunity to gather and present evidence. Because the trial court had given the parties no notice of a child support hearing, the court of appeals remanded the matter back to the trial court to hold a proper child support hearing.
The thing to remember in light of Heiderbreder is to always be prepared to modify child support when you asked the court to modify the amount of time the children spend with each parent because, as I heard one Maricopa County Superior Court judge put it, they go hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese or chips and salsa.
Thomas A. Morton practices family law, bankruptcy, and civil law in Phoenix, Arizona, and offers a discounted initial consultation.