In Washington State, either parent or both parents can be ordered by the court to pay support for a child. However, it’s usually the noncustodial parent – the parent who has the child for less than half of the time – who actually pays the support. The custodial parent is responsible for child support as well, but in many cases, the law assumes this parent is spending the required support amount directly on the child. Child support is naturally meant to cover the child’s living expenses, and whether you are paying or receiving it, you should know more about how it works.
You can get an estimate of your support share by using the state worksheets and its child support schedule. This schedule shows what the basic support amount should be based on the parents’ combined income and the number and ages of the children. However, there are additional expenses that may be due beyond the basic support amount. Childcare and other costs, such as expenses associated with education or medical care, must be shared between both parents.
Parents can agree to pay more than the basic amount set by the schedule, but they can’t agree to pay less. The court has to approve the final amount, and the court may adjust the amount up or down based on the best interests of the child and the parent’s individual needs.
Using the schedule
You will need to know the gross and net incomes of both parents to use the schedule to estimate support. Gross income is all the money coming in from all sources, including wages, bonuses, severance, pension pay, interest, stock dividends and more. If you’re out of work, keep in mind that money from workers’ compensation, Social Security and disability or unemployment benefits counts as well. If the court feels you are underemployed or unemployed intentionally, they can estimate and impute an income for you based on an assessment of your skills, job history and other factors.
There is some income you don’t need to include in your gross income for child support calculation, such as the income of your current spouse if you are married to someone other than your co-parent. If you’re not sure what to include, speak to a divorce attorney in Washington for help.
Once you have both gross incomes, you can make the proper deductions to calculate each parent’s net income. To get the net, you need to subtract state and federal income taxes, FICA taxes and any court-ordered child or spousal support already being paid in another case. There are some other things you can deduct as well, such as certain pension contributions and business expenses, so you may need to speak to an attorney for assistance.
After you’ve determined the net incomes, you can use the schedule to calculate the basic award in your case. The total amount due is divided between the parents in the same proportion as what they contribute separately to the combined income figure. Keep in mind that with the help of your divorce attorney in Kent, you can ask the court to adjust the support amount if the amount set by the schedule is unfair to a parent or child. The court will look at many factors when weighing your request, including income from other adults in each household, child support paid in other relationships, the child’s income (if any), and the needs of the child.
Modifying child support
You can ask the court to modify the child support amount after the order has been issued. If it has been less than a year since the order was issued or last changed, you need to show a substantial change in circumstances to get a modification. If an order has been in place for a year or more, you don’t have to show a substantial circumstance change, but the court will likely not change the support unless meeting the order terms has created a serious economic hardship on the child or either parent.
Child support is a serious obligation that will impact your finances and the financial situation of your child. Before you go to your child support hearing, speak to an experienced child support attorney about your case.