How to Determine and Modify Child Support

How to Determine Child Support in Washington State

day careHow to determine child support in Washington state can be a challenge.  Here are the basics that will help you figure it out.  Divorced parents are required to share in the financial support of their children.     Generally, the parent who has the children less of the time has to pay the other parent a monthly amount of child support. Child support may have two parts.  A basic child support, which is the amount that is presumed to spent on housing and feeding a child.  The second part is for special expenses, such as health and education costs.  Both the basic and special expense parts of child support are divided between the parents in proportion to their respective net incomes.  Each parent calculates their net monthly income and then puts that information into a standard form.   The limit of  the standard calculation for child support arrives when the combined net monthly incomes reaches $12,000.

Child support is required until the children turn 18 years of age.  That is the age of emancipation in Washington State.  However, many children actually graduate from high school a few months after they turn 18.  The support order normally provides for the additional few months of financial support.

A common issue with calculating child support is figuring out the net income.  Often a parent will have income that varies, such as a someone who works on commission or receives bonuses.  In other instances, a parent will be self-employed and be able to manipulate his or her net income.  Instances like these give rise to issues about the fairness of the resulting financial responsibility.

 Shared Custody

Another issue that often occurs is that the children reside with each parent somewhere between 30% to 60% of the time.  The standard form was not designed for these types of cases.  It was designed for one of the parents having 75% or more of the time and the other parent having the children 25% or less of the time.  In other words, the standard form was designed for a older view, when children lived with their mother and stayed with their father on alternating weekends.  With parenting currently being a more shared function, the amount of support often has to be adjusted to reflect the shared responsibility.

The court order that sets the child support also allocates the tax exemptions for the children.  Other aspects that parents should review is the filing status.  For example, head of household status usually has a lower tax rate.  There are also tax credits that should be considered.  Parents are generally required to share in the expense of work-related daycare. and health insurance for their children

college expense

Modification of Child Support

If you change employment or lose your employment, it is very important that you find an attorney to modify your child support.  The reason for this is that child support cannot be modified retroactively.  If you lose your employment in January and then try to modify your support six months later, you will likely be stuck with the higher support for the time you waited.

Similarly, if your child is a senior in high school and is thinking of attending college, then it is imperative that you see an attorney to make sure that the child support order covers the college expense.  If you wait until after your child graduates high or turns 18, then it will likely be too late for a court to obligate the other parent to contribute to the college education expense.

College Expense

A couple that stays married has no legal obligation to pay for the college education of their children,  However, divorced parents may be obligated to pay for the college education of their children.  That obligation arises if the court orders it before the children graduate high school or turn 18.   The rationale for the unequal treatment of married and divorced parents is some research that finds that divorced parents are less likely to voluntarily pay for their children to go to college.  Whether the court will order parents to pay for the college education of their children usually depends on their financial ability and the child’s scholastic aptitude.