Washington child support lawyer
Washington calculates child support using a fixed formula that is primarily based on the income of both parents. If one parent is not working or is under-employed, then the court may impute income to them.
There are some variables that can affect how much support you will pay, such as the amount of time a child spends with each parent. It is important that child support is calculated correctly because inaccuracies can lead to overpayment, and it may be more difficult to change it later.
It is a complex system and important to understand what counts as income and what exceptions are allowed for a deviation.
Child support laws in Washington are designed to ensure that a child’s financial needs are met and that both parents are adhering to their legal duty to provide support.
The amount of support is set by law and determined using the Child Support Schedule. The Basic Support Obligation is calculated based on the combined monthly net income of each parent and the number and ages of the children. Generally, the parent with whom the children spend the majority of their time receives support, and the higher-earning parent pays support.
Unfortunately, no automatic formula can consider all of the relevant facts. The Schedule only works fairly when honest and accurate information is provided by the parents. It is up to the parties involved (and their lawyers) to make certain that accurate income information is used and that facts affecting child support payments are explained to the court. Income and expense information must be thoroughly discussed with your attorney.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services provides an online Support Calculator. This resource can help you approximate your child support, but the projection is only as accurate as the information that is put into the formula.
In certain special situations, the court can deviate from the state formula calculations. You’ll need to discuss any proposed deviation with your attorney and build your case appropriately.
The court determines the amount of child support one parent is required to pay. After that amount has been set, it is up to the other parent to notify the court and/or the Department of Social and Health Services if payments are not being made.
Keep in mind that the government takes child support enforcement very seriously. There are massive consequences to evading child support including:
- State and federal income tax offset
- Liens on real or personal property owned by the debtor
- Freezing of bank accounts
- Orders to withhold and deliver property to satisfy the debt
- Passport denial
- Seizure and sale of property with the proceeds from the sale applied to the support debt.
The consequences above are outlined in this handbook created by the U.S. Department of Child Support Enforcement “Handbook on Child Support Enforcement”.
Child support enforcement process
The first step in the child support enforcement process is for the receiving parent to file an enforcement action with the court.
After the enforcement action has been filed, it is up to the judge to determine the next steps. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may order enforcement measures such as wage garnishment or seizure of assets in an effort to recover the unpaid support.
The measures the court will use for any particular case will depend on the reason for the missed payments, how much hasn’t been paid, and whether or not it appears that the non-paying parent is intentionally avoiding their child support obligation. If the court finds that the parent is deliberately avoiding their obligation, it may take more drastic enforcement measures.
For example, the court might order the non-paying parent to be held in contempt of court, which could result in jail time.
Once an order of child support is issued by the court, it can only be changed through a formal modification which involves filing a petition to modify and attend a hearing, or through a written agreement that gets signed by both parties and the judge.
A request for modification can be made after the support order has been in place for one year or if there has been “a substantial change in circumstances” such as changes in income or loss of employment. Find more about Washington divorce modification.
Circumstances that may require a child support modification
A “substantial change in circumstances” is a phrase used by the court when considering a request for modification. This means that some event or change has occurred since the original court order was issued that is significant enough to warrant a change in the current support amount — it is generally something that is out of either party’s control.
Some of the circumstances that may call for a child support modification include:
- Changes in income or employment
- Permanent disability
- Changes in the cost of living
- Changes in custody arrangements
- A substantial increase or decrease in the receiving parent’s income
- Changes in the child’s needs
- Loss of public benefits
- Incarceration of the non-custodial parent
Ultimately, the court will determine whether the modification is justified and how much the new support order should be. Deliberate attempts to reduce support payments by hiding income or by deliberately avoiding employment are not looked upon favorably by the court and may result in consequences that are more serious than a simple denial of the modification.
Types of child support modifications
Child support modifications can range from simple adjustments to major overhauls of the existing court order. The amount of change will depend on the circumstances surrounding the modification request.
Common types of modifications include:
- Increasing or decreasing the amount of support due to changes in income, employment, or cost of living
- Adding provisions for additional expenses such as medical costs, educational expenses, or extracurricular activities
- Adding provisions for enforcement if the non-custodial parent falls behind on payments or is otherwise not complying with the court order
- Modifying provisions for visitation or custody arrangements if they have an impact on the support amount
It is important to note that any modification must be made in the best interests of the child. The court will consider all factors, including both parents’ income, the child’s needs, and other relevant factors before making a decision.
By working with a reputable child support attorney in Washington, you can ensure that your petition is complete, accurate, and compelling so the court can make a fully-informed decision.
Your child support order will specify when payments begin, the amount to pay each month, and how long support will be paid. However, child support payments will typically continue until the minor child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. If the child reaches the age of 19 while still in high school, the obligation to pay child support will usually end on their 19th birthday.
In some circumstances, a parent’s obligation to pay support may be extended beyond these guidelines. For example, if the child has a physical or mental disability that prevents them from being able to support themselves, the paying parent’s child support duties could continue indefinitely or until they are receiving disability or other support which might cover their expenses, lessening the need for child support.
The original divorce decree or child support court order will specify if there are any special circumstances in your case, but if the disability occurs after the order is issued, a modification will likely be needed.
However, it is important to note that once the child support is terminated, it cannot be reactivated. If you would like to modify your child support, it is imperative you make this request before the child turns 18 or completes high school.
Get help from a qualified family law attorney
For many men, facing the family court system alone can be a daunting prospect. Working with an experienced family law attorney can provide the knowledge and assistance you need to navigate the family court system with confidence.
Whether you need help negotiating a fair child support agreement, coming up with a solution for past-due payments, or modifying an existing order, an attorney can provide knowledgeable legal guidance and ensure your rights are respected throughout the process.
At stake in a child support case is more than just money — the outcome will have a lasting impact on both you and your child. When you’re facing something so important, it pays to have a dedicated legal advocate working on your side. With the help of a qualified family law attorney, you can have peace of mind knowing that your case is in capable hands.
Divorce Lawyers For Men™ is committed to helping fathers achieve fair and equitable agreements and orders for child support. We get the Results that Men Want and Need! Contact us online or call (360) 866-7393 to speak with a divorce attorney about your child support obligations.