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Washington Child Support Attorney
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Washington State divorce and family law attorney Laurie G. Robertson.
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Washington State Child Support
Few things are as relatively straight forward yet so misunderstood as Washington child support. This is because WA state child support law is actually very complicated if any one of a number of variables are present in your case.
Some of the most common examples involve the following situations:
- where one party is self employed;
- where one party has a high income;
- where one party's income varies (often due to a commission based salary;
- where there are additional expenses associated with the child that are not contemplated by the Washington Child Support Schedules; and
- where one party's income suddenly drops dramatically.
And, over the years, we have learned that the majority of cases typically involve at least a couple of complex wrinkles. This is why it is best consult an experienced Washington child support attorney BEFORE any orders are every entered.
Washington child support is largely governed by statute. It is based primarily on the parties' income and work-related daycare expenses. As discussed below and throughout this site, however, a number of other factors can dramatically affect the presumed support payment if properly presented to the court.
When spouses divorce, or a child is born to unwed parents, WA State presumes and requires that an appropriate amount of child support will be paid each month by the non-custodial parent.
The Washington Child Support Guidelines.
The Washington Child Support Guidelines are the backbone of child support law here in Washington State. Under the WA Support Guidelines, whether a child is born out of wedlock or while the parties are married is completely irrelevant when it comes to calculating WA child support.
If a child is need of support, either parent may petition the Court or the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) for help in determining child support for the child. Dealing with DSHS, however, can be a long and complicated process.
The overwhelming majority of our clients prefer to go directly to court if the matter cannot be satisfactorily negotiated and agreed orders cannot be entered. Going to court is easier and faster. More importantly, a skilled Washington child support lawyer can properly frame and argue any issues that are unique to your case.
How is Washington Child Support Actually Determined?
When this happens the Court or DSHS must order that the parents or a step-parent owing a duty of support to the child pay child support based on their combined net incomes, the age of the child and the Washington Child Support Schedule.
There are often number of other factors involved in determining how much child support will be ordered. To get an initial rough estimate of your Washington Child Support Payment, DSHS has set up an online calculator. To access this Washington child support calculator, simply follow the instructions on the page.
These factors can include amount of residential time the child spend with the parent obligated to pay the support, special needs of the child, extraordinary debt involuntarily incurred by a parent and the duty of the obligated parent to support other minor children.
The intent of the legislature in determining child support is to insure that the child’s basic needs are met, therefore it is highly unlikely the Court would ever enter a Zero amount for a child support obligation.
The amount a parent is ordered to pay will be the percentage of their income to the joint income of the both parents. For example, if the joint income of both parents is $3000 with the father contributing $2000 to that amount and the mother contributing $1000 to that amount then their percentages of support would be 67% and 33% respectively.
If the basic support obligation for the child in this case was $561, then the father would be expected to contribute $376 and the mother would be expected to contribute $185 each month to the care of the child.
Deviations in Washington Child Support
We are often asked about deviations under Washington's child support laws. The Court can and will deviate from the presumed Washington child support payment for a number of reasons. Often, however, the court is not required to deviate. Instead, the court has the discretion or the power to deviate, if judge believes that this is appropriate.
Here are some of the reasons that a court might deviate from the Washington Child Support Guidelines:
- income of other adults in the household;
- child support or spousal maintenance actually received from other relationships;
- gifts or prizes received;
- possession of extraordinary wealth;
- extraordinary income of the child;
- extraordinary debt involuntarily incurred;
- significant disparity in income of the parents;
- or special needs of the children.
The Court also change the basic child support obligation if the underlying Parenting Plan or Residential Schedule warrant it. For example, if a child spends a significant amount of time with the parent who is required to pay child support, the court can reduce the presumed monthly payment. The court can also deviate if the parent paying the support has other children to whom they owe a duty of support.
It is important to understand that deviations are not a matter of right. They are completely at the discretion of the Court and if you believe that are entitled to consideration for a deviation it is important to speak with an experienced Washington child support lawyer before any orders are entered.
The Court looks at all the factors included and still seeks to insure that the child’s basic needs are met when they are with either parent. Our WA state child support attorneys will help ensure that an appropriate deviation, if warranted in your case, is properly framed and brought before the court for due consideration.
Determination of income under the Washington Child Support Schedule
All income and income sources of both parties are before the Court when determining child support. Basic expenses, including medical insurance actually paid for the child, mandatory pension payments and union dues, maintenance actually paid, state insurance and state and federal income tax, may be deducted from the gross income.
If a person owns a business, he or she may deduct reasonable “hard costs”, such as rent/mortgage, advertising, utilities, supplies, vehicle expenses and employee expense, from their gross business income.
If either parent is unemployed the Court may and most likely will impute an income for that individual. This imputed amount will either be based on that persons previous work history and earning potential or it will be determined by the state guidelines based on that person’s age and what the state feels a person of that gender and age should be making. The Court may also impute income at a higher rate if it feels that a parent is voluntarily under-employed to reduce the amount of child support they would otherwise have to pay.
Both parents are expected to provide the Court with Financial Declarations, as well as copies of paystubs and tax returns. The Court or the other party may also request copies of business records, bank records and information regarding investments as well as information regarding the finances of other adults living in either household.
Daycare and other expenses under Washington Child Support Law
The Court may order both parties to help pay for daycare and other expenses for the child. The amount a parent will pay is generally the same percentage they would be expected to pay of basic support obligation. For example, if the mother is expected to pay 67% of the basic support obligation and the father expected to contribute 33% then the parties are also expected to pay their percentage of the expenses.
Under Washington State Law the parent obligated to pay child support and daycare costs to the other parent has the right to ask for any receipts of the daycare or other expenses actually paid. The obligor parent may ask the Court to order the other party to payback daycare or other expenses for which they have paid but the expense was not actually incurred.
This is a common problem, so it is important that if you are asking the Court to have the other parent pay these expenses you should be prepared to show proof that these expenses are necessary and are actually being incurred.
Washington Child Support Law and Temporary Support
After a party has petitioned the Court for help with child support, either through a divorce action or a parentage action, a temporary order may be entered. The Court will use the standards listed above to determine what the temporary child support amount should be. The Court may also take into account that this is only a temporary order and may take into account other factors based on a case by case situation when determine the temporary support amount.
Modifying or Adjusting Washington Child Support
Child support may be adjusted every twenty-four months from the date of entry of the last child support order. The Court may also modify a child support order on a showing of a substantial change in circumstances at any time. The child support may also be adjusted or modified without a substantial change in circumstances as specifically required by the order itself if those provisions were made at the time the order was entered.
Washington Child Support and College
(Post Secondary Support)
Generally a child support order will end when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is the latter of the two. The Court may award post-secondary support at its discretion.
If the residential parent wants post-secondary support for their child they must petition the Court for the support prior to the ending of the support order. When considering whether to order post-secondary support the Court shall determine whether the child is in fact dependent and is relying upon the parents for the reasonable necessities of life.
The Court shall also consider other factors such as the child’s age and needs, the expectations of the parties for their children when they were together, the child’s ability to succeed and do well, the parent’s level of education and income and standard of living.
The child must register in an accredited college or vocational school and must be actively pursuing a course of study commensurate with the child’s goals. The parent may opt to pay the school directly when feasible.
Back or past due child support
The Court may order a parent to pay back child support for a child when that parent has not paid support, even if no child support order was previously entered. The Court may also enter a judgment for past due child support. When faced with an action for past due or back child support an obligor parent may have several defenses which the Court can consider and ultimately the Court may enter a judgment for the full amount owed or not enter a judgment at all. Each situation is viewed on a case by case basis.