Both parents have a legal duty to support their children. In Washington, child support is based on the Washington Child Support Schedule. The Schedule takes into consideration the total cost of taking care of the children and providing them with a home. The Schedule also takes into consideration each parent’s respective share of that cost according to their incomes.
Child support is subject to periodic modification to address the changing needs of the children and changes in each parent’s ability to pay. Child support payments are typically required until the child's eighteenth birthday or when the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. Other circumstances may affect the duration of the support obligation allowing the court to terminate the parental obligation for the support.
In some cases, the parents are required to pay post-secondary support for a dependent child’s college or vocational education expenses. Special rules also apply to the support of a handicapped or disabled child.
Child Support Lawyer Seattle, WA | Family Law Firm in King County
The attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson can help you resolve any dispute over child support in Seattle or Kent in King County, Washington. Call us for a consultation to discuss your case and the best options to resolve the case.
We represent clients throughout King County including the cities of Seattle and Kent and the surrounding cities of Algona, Auburn, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Bothell, Burien, Carnation, Clyde Hill, Covington, Des Moines, Duvall, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Shoreline, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Bellevue, Kirkland, Ballard, Lake Forest Park, Maple Valley, Medina, Mercer Island, Milton, Newcastle, Normandy Park, North Bend, Pacific, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, SeaTac, Shoreline, Snoqualmie, Tukwila and Woodinville.
We also represent clients throughout the bordering counties of Snohomish County to the north and Pierce County to the south.
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- How Much is Child Support in Washington?
- Factors Used to Determine Child Support in Seattle, WA
- Deviations from the Child Support Standard Calculations
- Child Support Deviations for Sources of Income and Tax Planning
- Deviations for Nonrecurring Income
- Deviations for Debt and High Expenses
- Deviations Because of the Residential Schedule
- Deviations for Children from Other Relationships
- Imputation of Income for a Voluntarily Unemployed Parent
- Enforcing Out of State Child Support Orders in Washington State
- Wage Withhold Mechanism in Child Support Cases
- How to Terminate Child Support in Washington
- Statute of Limitation for Child Support Enforcement in Washington
- Additional Resources
How Much is Child Support in Washington?
How much you may be required to pay in child support will depend on you and your family’s circumstances. In Washington, child support is calculated by using the Washington State Child Support Schedule (WSCSS). The schedule is similar to an income tax table by taking the income level of each party into account and calculating a support amount that meets the needs of the children and within the limitations of the paying parent.
Washington courts must first determine the parent’s gross income (total income before any deductions) before making a decision. They will then make a support obligation based on the parent’s net income (gross income plus tax deductions and other expenses). If any parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court will impute income to them.
To calculate child support, the court will use both combined net income of the parents to determine the total amount of child support due. The total amount is then divided between both parents in the same proportion as their individual contributions to the combined income.
For example, let’s say a couple have one child together and their net income combined is $1,000. According to the WSCSS, both parents must cover a total of $220 in child support monthly. If one parent contributes to 60% of the combined income (so $600 or so per month), then this higher paid parent must pay 60% of the total child support. That would mean they must pay $132 a month while the other lower paid parent will only pay 40% of the total child support. In the end, the second lower paid parent would pay $88 a month in child support.
The minimum amount of support required by the court according to WSCSS is $50 a month. The maximum amount is 45% of the parent’s net income. This cap may increase if one of the parent’s has substantial wealth.
Although most child support determinations are made using the standard calculations, the court can deviate from the standard calculation for several reasons, including the possession of wealth or a significant disparity in the living costs of the parents due to conditions beyond their control.
The amount of child support that will be ordered by the court depends on a variety of factors. The most important factors include:
- How many children do the parents have together?
- How many of those children are under 12?
- How much is the monthly take-home pay of the person responsible for paying child support?
- How much is the monthly take-home pay of the person who will receive child support?
Under RCW 26.19.080, a parent is obligated to pay his or her portion of child support relating to his children's reasonable and necessary health care costs;
When determining the amount of child support that can be awarded, the court will consider all income and resources of the parties before the court, new spouses or new domestic partners, and other adults in the households.
RCW 26.19.071(1) does not require that the court make a precise determination of income. Instead, the court is required to consider all income and resources of each parent's household.
The presumptive amount of support shall be determined according to the child support schedule. Unless specific reasons for deviation are set forth in the written findings of fact and are supported by the evidence, the court shall order each parent to pay the amount of support determined by using the standard calculation.
The court shall enter findings that specify reasons for any deviation or any denial of a party's request for any deviation from the standard calculation made by the court. The court shall not consider reasons for deviation until the court determines the standard calculation for each parent.
When reasons exist for deviation, the court shall exercise discretion in considering the extent to which the factors would affect the support obligation. The agreement of the parties is not by itself adequate reason for any deviations from the standard calculation.
RCW 26.19.075 provides a non-exclusive list of the types of wealth the court may consider. Under RCW 26.19.075(1) those reasons can include sources of income and tax planning, nonrecurring income, debt and high expenses, residential schedule, and children from other relationships.
The court may deviate from the standard calculation after consideration of the following assets in determining the wealth of a parent:
- Possession of wealth, including but not limited to savings, investments, real estate holdings and business interests, vehicles, boats, pensions, bank accounts, insurance plans, or other assets;
- Income of a new spouse or new domestic partner, if the parent who is married to the new spouse or is in a partnership with a new domestic partner is asking for a deviation based on any other reason. Income of a new spouse or new domestic partner is not, by itself, a sufficient reason for deviation;
- Income of other adults in the household if the parent who is living with the other adult is asking for a deviation based on any other reason. Income of the other adults in the household is not, by itself, a sufficient reason for deviation;
- Child support actually received from other relationships;
- Extraordinary income of a child;
- Tax planning considerations only if the child would not receive a lesser economic benefit due to the tax planning; or
- Income that has been excluded under *RCW 26.19.071(4)(h) if the person earning that income asks for a deviation for any other reason.
The court may deviate from the standard calculation based on a finding that a particular source of income included in the calculation of the basic support obligation is not a recurring source of income. Depending on the circumstances, nonrecurring income may include overtime, contract-related benefits, bonuses, or income from second jobs.
Deviations for nonrecurring income shall be based on a review of the nonrecurring income received in the previous two calendar years.
The court may deviate from the standard calculation after consideration of the following expenses:
- Extraordinary debt not voluntarily incurred;
- A significant disparity in the living costs of the parents due to conditions beyond their control;
- Special needs of disabled children;
- Special medical, educational, or psychological needs of the children; or
- Costs incurred or anticipated to be incurred by the parents in compliance with court-ordered reunification efforts under chapter 13.34 RCW or under a voluntary placement agreement with an agency supervising the child.
The court may deviate from the standard calculation if the child spends a significant amount of time with the parent who is obligated to make a support transfer payment. The court may not deviate on that basis if the deviation will result in insufficient funds in the household receiving the support to meet the basic needs of the child or if the child is receiving temporary assistance for needy families.
When determining the amount of the deviation, the court shall consider evidence concerning the increased expenses to a parent making support transfer payments resulting from the significant amount of time spent with that parent and shall consider the decreased expenses, if any, to the party receiving the support resulting from the significant amount of time the child spends with the parent making the support transfer payment.
When the court has determined that either or both parents have children from other relationships, deviations under this section shall be based on consideration of the total circumstances of both households. All child support obligations paid, received, and owed for all children shall be disclosed and considered by the court.
The court may deviate from the standard calculation when either or both of the parents before the court have children from other relationships to whom the parent owes a duty of support.
- The child support schedule shall be applied to the mother, father, and children of the family before the court to determine the presumptive amount of support.
- Children from other relationships shall not be counted in the number of children for purposes of determining the basic support obligation and the standard calculation.
- When considering a deviation from the standard calculation for children from other relationships, the court may consider only other children to whom the parent owes a duty of support. The court may consider court-ordered payments of child support for children from other relationships only to the extent that the support is actually paid.
The deviation standards under RCW 26.19.075 govern some child support determinations in Washington State. The court will use imputation of income for a voluntarily unemployed parent.
Under RCW 26.19.071(6), a court imputes income to a parent for the purpose of child support when that parent is voluntarily unemployed. RCW 26.19.071(6) states, in pertinent part:
The court shall impute income to a parent when the parent is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed. The court shall determine whether the parent is voluntarily underemployed or voluntarily unemployed based upon that parent's work history, education, health, and age, or any other relevant factors.
Under RCW 26.19.071(6), a court imputes income at a past rate of pay where information on current or historical rates of pay is incomplete or sporadic. RCW 26.19.071(6) states, in pertinent part:
In the absence of records of a parent's actual earnings, the court shall impute a parent's income in the following order of priority:
(a) Full-time earnings at the current rate of pay;
(b) Full-time earnings at the historical rate of pay based on reliable information, such as employment security department data;
(c) Full-time earnings at a past rate of pay where information is incomplete or sporadic.
The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act ("UIFSA") governs how Washington courts enforce child support orders issued by courts in other states. Before the UIFSA existed, parties could have competing child support orders in different states. As a result, parents could avoid obligations by moving to states with more favorable laws. The resulting litigation caused the system to be in a state of general chaos.
To fix these problems, the UIFSA established a “one-order” system where one state would have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over a support order. To make it work, UIFSA includes several provisions relating to modifying and enforcing support orders from other states.
The first issue in these cases is determining which provision of the UIFSA choice of law statute applies. When determining which provisions of the UIFSA chose of law statute applies, the statute provides:
(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (4) of this section, the law of the issuing state or foreign country governs:
(a) The nature, extent, amount, and duration of current payments under a registered support order;
(b) The computation and payment of arrearages and accrual of interest on the arrearages under the support order; and
(c) The existence and satisfaction of other obligations under the support order.
(2) In a proceeding for arrears under a registered support order, the statute of limitation of this state or of the issuing state or foreign country, whichever is longer, applies,
(3) A responding tribunal of this state shall apply the procedures and remedies of this state to enforce current support and collect arrears and interest due on a support order of another state or foreign country registered in this state.
(4) After a tribunal of this or another state determines which is the controlling order and issues an order consolidating arrears, if any, a tribunal of this state shall prospectively apply the law of the state or foreign country issuing the controlling order, including its law on interest on arrears, on current and future support, and on consolidated arrears.
A wage withholding mechanism is generally considered to be a “remedy” under RCW 26.21A.515(3). In enacting the wage withholding remedy, the legislature found that there was an urgent need for vigorous enforcement of child support. The law provided more efficient statutory remedies to supplement the other available remedies.
RCW 4.56.210(2) does not provide a procedural mechanism to enforce a child support order. Instead, it provides a durational limit on the general enforcement of an underlying judgment for child support.
Despite the Washington case law disavowing the “statute of limitation” label for RCW 4.56.210 generally, the courts will treat the section regarding child support orders as a statute of limitation for UIFSA choice of law. RCW 26.21A.905 emphasizes that in applying and construing UIFSA, consideration must be given to the need to promote uniformity of the law with respect to its subject matter among states that enact it.
How to Terminate Child Support in Washington State?
You’re aware when child supports may begin for your child, but when do they end. Most assume that child support payments in Washington come to an end when the child turns 18 years old. However, that isn’t always the case. Payments may be able to stop before the child turns 18 in certain circumstances.
Five common ways child support payments are terminated in Washington include:
- The child graduates from high school
- The child marries another person
- The child has died
- The child suffered from a disability and is over 18, but no longer considered disabled
You can also file a motion to modify child support if you’re able to qualify. According to Washington laws, you can modify your child support order if:
- Your support order says you can file this motion and you’ve followed the instructions in paragraph 13 of the Support Order and couldn’t reach an agreement with the other parent
- It’s been two years since the entry of the support order and one of the following is true
- Your income or the other parent’s income has changed
- The standards for the calculating support has changed
Under the Washington statute of limitation, the period for enforcing the arrears judgment would have expired 10 years after the child’s 18th birthday. Under RCW 4.56.210(2), the judgment would not be enforceable after that date. However, the courts have held that RCW 4.56.210(2) is a statute of limitation for UIFSA choice of law purposes.
Quick Washington Child Support Estimator - Visit the website of the Division of Child Support for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to find a child support calculator that can provide a very rough estimate of your possible monthly child support obligation. The calculations can vary based on a variety of factors including deviation from the child support schedule as determined by the courts, other child support obligations, other children in the home, the cost of education, any spousal maintenance or alimony award, daycare expenses, and health care costs. The Automated Child Support Worksheets can be used for a more accurate estimate.
Seattle Child Support Office - Visit the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services website to view the primary phone, fax, email, and service hours of the child support office in Seattle. Through the webpage, you'll also have the opportunity to access the Division of Child Support webpage.
Washington Child Support Lawyer | Seattle Child Support Modification
Washington child support cases are very complicated. If you and your child’s other parents are separating, a child support order will most likely be a part of your divorce settlement. To seek qualified legal representation, consult an experienced Seattle child support attorney.
At Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson, we have years of combined experience helping parents deal with child support issues in the Seattle area. To arrange your first consultation, call our experienced Washington family law attorneys at (206) 712-2756. Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represents clients throughout Seattle, WA, King County and the surrounding cities of Algona, Auburn, Bellevue, and Renton.