Most of us have learned as we’ve gotten older that life doesn’t always turn out the way we planned. That may be good or bad depending upon the situation, but the one positive is that most of us eventually find a way to rebound; and it never hurts to have someone in our corner to help us get back on track as we experience life’s ups and downs.
As the definition of the “American Dream” has changed throughout the years, so too, have the services provided to the public through the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES). Whereas young couples used to dream of owning a home with a white picket fence; a household consisting of two parents; a mother and a father; a minivan and 2.5 children — that is, in many cases, no longer the norm. The modern day reality is that more families than ever before are led by single parents or are part of a blended family where parents often remarry and merge families.
It’s natural for children to look to their parents for the support and love they need to be healthy and happy. That’s why our agency finds it so important to recognize August as Child Support Awareness Month. Whether your child lives with you or with someone else, it’s important to stay engaged at every stage of their young lives. Child support makes a tremendous difference in the life of a child, and it’s much more than just a monetary obligation. Many Arizona families rely on child support payments to provide for their basic needs — shelter, food, clothing, child care and transportation. Our role at DES is to make that happen. The DES Division of Child Support partners with federal, state, tribal, and local governments to promote parental responsibility to ensure children receive support from both parents, even when they live in separate households.
Anyone can apply for child support services in Arizona regardless of income, residency, nationality or gender — even if you’ve already had a child support order granted by a court. DES has the ability to establish paternity of the father; establish child support payments for the parent whose children live in the home; modify child support payments; enforce child support (including spousal maintenance) and locate absent parents. Either parent may apply for services. It’s important to note that grandparents raising grandchildren and other custodians may also apply.
We recognize many parents struggle to support their children and the management of a case is as individual as the families who apply. Parents who owe child support are often eligible to request court order modifications or settlements. At DES, we approach each case based on a family’s unique situation. Our goal is to work with both parents to come to an agreement that has the best outcome for the child. Any payment, regardless of the amount, demonstrates a good faith effort to comply with court-ordered child support.
To learn more about child support or to apply for services, call (602) 252-4045 (toll-free at 1-800-882-4151) or visit https://www.azdes.gov/.
• Clarence Carter is director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security.