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Child Support

Upon a couple’s divorce or a petition to establish for support for a child born out of wedlock, a child support order is required to ensure that the dependent child’s financial needs are being met.  Washington’s child support statute is intended to divide the child support obligation between parents in proportion to their income, making the determination or “finding” of each parent’s net monthly income the first step.  Once each parent’s monthly net income is determined, those incomes are applied to the published child support schedule in RCW 26.19.020, which allocates support obligations between the parents proportionate to their net income and will order a “basic transfer payment” from one parent to the other.

Child Support Orders will address things like post-secondary support for children who are or will be enrolling in college, the obligation of one or both parents to provide medical insurance coverage, the right of a parent to claim a child on tax returns, and proportional cost sharing and reimbursements between the parents for uninsured medical costs, day care and education expenses.  There may also be any number of equitable considerations at play in a given case, such as where the parents are exercising an equal residential time share, where a parent is obligated to support another child from another relationship, or perhaps where there are special needs or interests of a child.

In sum, Child Support Orders involve much more than merely coming up with a monthly child support payment.  Having good legal counsel in your corner Is vital to ensuring that the numbers add up and there is fairness in the child support order created for your child(ren).  Call me at 360-787-2424 or contact me online to schedule a consultation to discuss your child support questions.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is used to determine my income? Many parents have more than one source of income (e.g., wages from employment, rental income, stock options, annuity payments, etc.). In short, all of a party’s income that is not specifically excluded by statute must be included in child support calculations and the only income that is excluded by statute is:

  • Income of a new spouse or new domestic partner or income of other adults in the household;
  • Child support received from other relationships;
  • Gifts and prizes;
  • Temporary assistance for needy families;
  • Supplemental security income;
  • Aged, blind, or disabled assistance benefits;
  • Pregnant women assistance benefits;
  • Food stamps; and
  • Overtime or income from second jobs beyond forty hours per week averaged over a twelve-month period worked to provide for a current family’s needs, to retire past relationship debts, or to retire child support debt, when the court finds the income will cease when the party has paid off his or her debts.

So, I do not have to disclose my new spouse’s income?  Depends. In a straight child support calculation, a new spouse’s income (or even the income of other adults living in your household) is not factored into the calculation. However, a court may look to the “totality of each parent’s household finances” to determine whether a child support calculation works a hardship on either parent.  In those cases where one parent claims that the child support is not enough or the other claims the child support obligation is too much, a Court can require that the income of a new spouse or other adult sharing the household expenses be disclosed.

Is there any cap to the child support?  Generally, the answer to this question is “Yes”.  The child support table is based on the combined net income of the parents up to $12,000.00.   Where the parties’ combined monthly net income exceeds $12,000.00, the court may exceed the presumptive calculation only after issuing written findings of fact that justify the increase in child support. Such “upward deviations” are usually based on the special needs of a child which require greater cost in caregiving services, the special needs of a child which involve “life defining activities”, or the standard of living attained by the parents during their relationship together.

I have a child who wants to go to college next year, can I get support for him while s/he is in college? Washington state does provide for “post-secondary” educational support for children, but it is not guaranteed.  “It is not the policy of this State to require divorced parents to provide adult children with a college education in all circumstances.” Childers v. Childers, 89 Wn.2d 592, 601(1978)  However, a parent can seek “post-secondary support” for a child seeking further education or training beyond high school.  Courts are governed by RCW 26.19.090, which directs a court to consider a number of factors including, but not limited to the age of the child; the child’s needs; the expectations of the parties for their children when the parents were together; the child’s prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities or disabilities; the nature of the postsecondary education sought; and the parents’ level of education, standard of living, and current and future resources. In sum, if a child is underperforming academically or if the parents lack the financial resources child support to attend college is not likely. Also, courts are generally reluctant to make provision for post-secondary support in cases where the children are young, opting to “reserve” on the issue until the child nears the age of 18 or graduates high school (the time at which the child support order would naturally expire).

Why should I pay child support if I have my child half the time?  The mere fact that a child spends an equal amount of time with each parent does not mean that there will be no child support transfer payment from one household to the other. It is a matter of the financial resources in each household.  A court may deviate from the standard calculation if the child spends a significant amount of time with the parent who is obligated to make a support transfer payment only if the deviation does not result in insufficient funds to meet the child’s basic needs while residing in the household receiving the transfer payment.  In practice, where there is a significant disparity between the incomes of each parent, there is rarely an “overnight residential credit” awarded to reduce child support.

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