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When may a court deviate from the Arizona Guidelines?

Generally speaking, a Phoenix or Gilbert parent who does not have his or her child the majority of the time or who has equal time but earns more than the other parent is going to be ordered to pay child support in some amount. Usually, the Arizona Guidelines determine how much child support a parent will pay, and the law strongly encourages courts to follow these Guidelines. To review, courts will apply these Guidelines by plugging in the appropriate figures and using the prescribed formula to come to a figure for child support.

However, these Guidelines are not absolute. In many cases, courts are allowed or even required to deviate from them. After all, the important thing is not to apply the Guidelines strictly but instead to come to a child support figure that is fair to both parents and, most importantly, the children.

To deviate, the most essential point is that the court must be convinced that simply applying the Guidelines would lead to an injustice or otherwise be inappropriate for the case in front of the court. In this process, the court must make the best interest of the child paramount, although this does not mean that the court may never reduce support below the amount called for in the Guidelines.

Procedurally, the court must explain the reasons for the deviation in writing and must also clearly show the difference between the actual support order and the amount of child support called for under the Guidelines.

For parents who are trying to resolve their issues amicably, it is also important to note that courts do have some leeway to approve agreements regarding child support, even if the end result is that the Guidelines are not strictly followed. Since it is not supposed to be commonplace, getting a deviation or modification of the Guideline child support amount can be a difficult thing to accomplish legally.

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