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Washington Child Support
Child Support in Washington

In Washington, the court may order either parent to pay child support. Marital misconduct is not considered. The courts consider all relevant factors. The courts may also require either parent to provide health insurance for the child.

The official Washington Child Support guidelines are used unless the parents have agreed to a child support amount approved by the courts, or the courts determine the guidelines are unjust for a particular case.

In Washington, child support is calculated using a standard formula known as the Income Shares Model. This model determines how much support a noncustodial parent pays each month based on that parent's income and the number of children in the family. Generally, courts do not deviate from the guidelines without good reason.

In calculating support paid by the parent who has custody less than half the time -- the noncustodial parent -- the court considers all income sources, including wages, salary, bonuses, tips, retirement, unemployment, workers compensation and disability benefits. Exempt from the calculation are food stamps and cash assistance programs for the disadvantaged.

The Income Shares Model estimates the amount of support that would have been available if the marriage had not failed. This estimated amount is then divided proportionally to the parents according to each parent's income. This is easy to do using the Washington child support worksheet. Pay records typically substantiate the estimated incomes.

This routine takes into account both parents' gross income and applies a percentage to it based on the number of minor children they have together. The court takes the combined income of both parents and works out the proportion each contributes. That figure is then divided proportionately based on each parent's ability to pay and which parent has primary custody.

If the noncustodial parent has a higher income than the custodial parent, the noncustodial parent would then be responsible for the greater portion of the child support obligation; conversely, if the noncustodial parent has a lower income than the custodial, the noncustodial parent would then be responsible for the smaller portion of the child support obligation.

Official child support guidelines and worksheets are available from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services and from the clerk of the court. Mandatory wage assignments may be required if the child support payments are over 15 days past due. Child support payments may be required to be paid through the Washington State Support Registry or directly to the parent, if an approved payment plan is accepted by the court. Divorce and child support is described in the Revised Code of Washington Annotated; Title 26, Chapters 26.09.040, 26.09.050, 26.09.100, 26.09.120, 26.18.070, 26.23.050, and 26-19 Appendix.

Calculate Washington Child Support

Other Expenses and Deductions

Extraordinary expenses are either add-ons, where the expense is added to the support payment, or deductions, where the amount is deducted, and indicated as either mandatory or permissive. Childcare and extraordinary medical expenses are considered mandatory deductions.

Child Support Enforcement

In Washington, wage withholding is the primary way to enforce child support. The employer deducts a set amount from a parent's paycheck pursuant to the standing court support order. If a parent falls behind in his child support payments, Washington and federal law permits the attachment of that parent's state and federal tax return.

Withholding works very much like income tax withholding. Both parties generally find it easier. Once a support payment has been made, it can be send to the parent designated to receive the support.

No more than 50 percent of a noncustodial parents wages can be attached if he or she can prove that they are providing more than 50 percent of the support for dependants not included in the court order from a second marriage. That number goes to 55 percent if the noncustodial parent is in arrears, 60 percent for a person only providing support to dependants under the current order, and 65 percent for a person who is in arrears and paying only on the current order.

More information about Washington Child Support Enforcement can be found at their website.

Emancipation

In Washington, child support ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child becomes automatically ineligible for child support if he or she marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or dies.

When considering whether or not to order support for postsecondary educational expenses, the court shall determine whether or not the child is in fact dependent and is relying upon the parents for the reasonable necessities of life. The court uses discretion when determining the award for postsecondary educational support based upon the following factors:

  • 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 and/or disabilities;
  • the nature of the postsecondary education being sought;
  • the parents' level of education;
  • the parents' standard of living;
  • the parents' current and future resources;
  • and the amount and type of support that the child would have received if the parents had stayed together.

Deviation Factors

In unique situations, such as true joint custody, the court deviates in calculating support. The judge may choose to consider parental income and the time each parent cares for the child. True joint custody parents may not pay as much support as a noncustodial parent who has only occasional visitation.

However, courts do not deviate from guidelines unless the noncustodial parent has a lot of debt, high expenses, nonrecurring income or children from a previous relationship he or she is already supporting.

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