Child support can often be one of the most complicated issues in a divorce. While the marriage has come to an end, the former spouses will remain parents for the rest of their lives. As loving parents, they are committed to providing everything their children need.
While many parents pay child support each month, there is often confusion and misunderstanding about the requirements and obligations of child support laws. This is especially true when it comes to some of the unique features of Washington child support laws, which differ from other states.
In this article, we will expose 5 common myths about child support in the State of Washington.
Myth 1: Men always pay child support.
This is a big one. Reinforced by TV shows and movies showing a husband leaving his wife and children behind while he moves out to start a new life, the mother struggles to support the children while the husband mails support checks from a tropical island every month. As with many movie plots, the real world can be very different.
First, the assumption that men always leave and that the children always stay with the mother is outdated. Many fathers choose and even fight in divorce court for primary custody of their children. In many divorces, the mother pays child support and the children live with the father.
The key to understanding child support is focusing on which parent the children live with the majority of the time after the divorce. Washington family courts acknowledge the legal obligation of both parents to provide for the children. The children will primarily live with one parent and so the other parent pays child support. The divorce laws of the state of Washington do not automatically give preference to one parent over another.
Myth 2: There are no limits on child support amount.
Who gets to decide how much someone will pay in child support? Does the judge just make up a number? If you have never been through a divorce before, you may be very concerned about how child support is determined.
Unlike other states, Washington has clear and specific laws which determine the amount of child support a parent has to pay. The Child Support Schedule was created by legislation and is a formula which uses the combined monthly net income of each parent and the number and ages of the children to determine child support levels.
The judge cannot deviate from the formula without a clear and compelling reasons. For example, there may be a deviation from the schedule if a child is disabled or has serious medical issues which require increased support. A judge may also consider a deviation if one parent has an exceptionally high income. Any deviation requires that evidence be presented to support it and that there be a legal and factual basis for the deviation.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services actually provides a handy online Support Calculator that can be used to estimate child support.
Myth 3: Child support and alimony are tied together.
Since both are often monthly payments to a former spouse, alimony, (called Maintenance or Spousal Support in Washington law), and child support are often lumped together and considered to be one and the same. This is a common misconception. In actuality, there are many differences between alimony and child support, and one very seldom affects the other.
As discussed in the last myth, child support represents a parent’s responsibility to support their children. It does not require marriage. A father can be ordered to pay support even if he was never married to the children’s mother. Child support is determined based on the Washington State Child Support Schedule. Support also generally ends when the children reach the age of 18.
Alimony, on the other hand, is financial support provided to a former spouse. It can only be awarded where a marriage existed. Individuals who only lived together do not qualify. There is no set schedule for spousal maintenance, so divorce judges have wide discretion in setting it. The length of maintenance can vary, from a just a few years all to way to life long maintenance.
Myth 4: Stepparents don’t pay child support.
Many families today include stepparents and stepchildren. How do stepchildren affect child support? Can the law require you to support children who are not your own?
Actually, Washington family law does require limited child support for stepchildren. Stepparents are required to support stepchildren until the divorce is final or the court rules otherwise. In most cases, this means the stepparent will pay child support for however long the divorce process takes to complete.
Myth 5: Child support can never be changed.
Many people believe that once a court has issued an order for child support, it can never be changed. In fact, child support can be changed through a Divorce Modification. Remember that child support is based on income. If the parent paying child support has had a substantial change in income, the court may grant a modification. The party or their attorney can file a petition to modify child support.
These 5 myths are just a sample of the common misconceptions many people have about divorce. While your friends and family may be well-meaning, legal advice is best left up to professionals. You can’t rely on what people have heard or believe to be true. Talk to a divorce attorney and find out the real facts about divorce.
Don’t Wait–Contact Divorce Lawyers for Men Today
Divorce Lawyers For Men™ attorneys advise and assist Washington husbands and fathers in divorce. Talk with a legal professional to find out your rights regarding child custody and support. Call us today at (877) 866-7393 to speak with an attorney who understands your situation and can really help.
If you would like more information on the divorce process, or to take the best divorce resources with you in print, please check out our free divorce guide for men.