Find Answers to Common Questions About Child Support
- What is Child Support?
- How is Child Support Calculated?
- What if I have no income or I am unemployed?
- Can my final child support payment be reduced?
- Can my child support be modified or adjusted?
- Do I have to pay child support when my children go to college?
- How is child support paid to the other parent?
- Do I need a lawyer to help me obtain child support or a child support modification?
An experienced attorney can help you navigate the family law/child support process and provide strategies and advice throughout the proceedings. Many areas of the law such as formulating a parenting plan or calculating child support and maintenance, and dividing property are complicated and require sound legal advice. Jeff Barth is an experienced attorney who can help draft paperwork and forcefully argue your case if you have to appear in court. Jeff can also prepare for and negotiate a settlement at mediation or arbitration.
What is child support?
Child support is money paid to another party taking care of their child or children. It is usually the other parent. It is meant to help support the children and to ensure there is enough money to provide them food, clothing, an appropriate and safe place to live and to pay for daycare and medical expenses for the child or children.
Both parents are legally obligated to pay support for their child or children.
How is child support calculated?
Child support in the State of Washington is determined by using an economic table, the net income of the parents, and the number and ages of the children.
In determining parents’ income, the courts will look to all of their income and resources. Income is verified by providing copies of tax returns and paystubs. Income includes wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and income from rents, partnerships and businesses.
Net income is calculated by subtracting allowable expenses such as Federal Income Taxes, Social Security, Medicare, mandatory pension payments, union dues, and court ordered maintenance.
Using the parents’ net income and the number and age of the children, a basic support amount is calculated based on the economic table. In addition to child support, health insurance costs (monthly health insurance premiums) will also be included in the calculation of the monthly child support. Generally, the parents will share the costs of the children’s health insurance premium in an amount in proportion to their income.
What if I have no income or I am unemployed?
If a parent is not working or is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, the court may impute net income to that individual.
When the court imputes income to you, it means they decide what income will be used, on your behalf, to calculate child support. Under Washington State Law, the court must impute income based on the following:
- Full-time earnings at your current rate of pay.
- Full-time earnings at your historical rate of pay.
- Full-time earnings at a parte rate of pay where information is incomplete or sporadic.
- Full-time earnings at a minimum wage in the jurisdiction where the
paying parent lives, if the paying parent has a recent history of
wage earnings, is coming off public assistance, has recently been
released from jail or prison or is a high school student.
If the court has none of the above information, then the court will use the median income for a person of your age and gender in the United States.
See RCW 26.19.071(6)
Can my final child support payment be reduced?
Sometimes the final child support amount is reduced. For example, if either parent is paying court ordered support for other children, or if the children spend a significant amount of time with both parents, the child support amount may be reduced (downward deviation). A deviation in support is discretionary with the court, and the amount of deviation may vary upon the circumstances of the parties.
Can my child support be modified or adjusted?
Generally child support can be reviewed every 2 years to determine if an adjustment is appropriate. Some factors that determine if an adjustment is appropriate include whether the child has moved to a different age bracket (age 12 for example) or if there has been a substantial change in income. Adjustments are done without the need for filing a Petition to Modify.
Child support can also be modified after a final order is entered. Child support is modified by filing a Petition to Modify Child Support. There are a variety of reasons for modification. A few include:
- It has been 1 year or more since the final order was signed and the current order causes a severe financial hardship or a child provided for in the order has turned 12 years old and has the right to more support.
- It has been 2 or more years since the final order was signed and the parents income has changed or the economic tables have changed.
- There has been a substantial change in circumstances since the prior order was signed.
Do I have to pay child support when my children go to college?
If the children of the parties are going to college, the court may also set an obligation for post-majority support (tuition, room and board expenses for a college or university). Generally post-majority support is reserved and addressed by the parties as their children approach graduation from high school. The parents must either petition the court for post-majority support before support terminates (usually age 18 or graduation from high school, whichever is later).
How is child support paid to the other parent?
Support can be paid directly to the parent, or it can be paid to the Washington State Division of Child Support (DCS). If support is paid to DCS, it may be taken directly from a parent’s wages each month and sent to the receiving parent. DCS maintains a record of support owed and paid by the responsible parent.
Do I need a lawyer to help me obtain child support or a child support modification?
If you have children under age 18, I can help accurately calculate the child support amount and make certain that the child support order is accurate and complete.