Child Support Process

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. We are experienced divorce attorney Kirkland 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.

Find Answers to Common Questions About 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.

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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.

Daycare costs, transportation expenses (if applicable), school tuition, and expenses for special needs children can also be included in the final calculation of child support.

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:

  1. Full-time earnings at your current rate of pay.
  2. Full-time earnings at your historical rate of pay.
  3. Full-time earnings at a parte rate of pay where information is incomplete or sporadic.
  4. 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)

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.

Many divorce cases are negotiated by the parties with the help of their attorney. If the parties through their attorney are unable to negotiate a settlement, they are required to engage in an alternate dispute resolution before trial. Most parties will agree to a mutually acceptable mediator. Ultimately, if mediation is not successful the parties will have to either agree to arbitration or have a trial before a superior court judge.

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).

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.

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.

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