Family Law: Child Support

The Child Support Schedule was established by the State legislature in 1988 to comply with federal law requiring each state to have a standardized statewide support schedule. The legislative intent is to ensure that child support orders meet a child’s basic needs and provide support commensurate with the parents income, resources, and standard of living. The legislature also intended that support obligations be equitably apportioned between parents. The schedule uses income and assets information from both parents to determine the support amount. State law requires that all income and resources from each parent’s household be disclosed, but only the income of the parents whose support is at issue can be considered when calculating the basic child support obligation. In the absence of current income information, income can be imputed, based on parents’ past earnings or on statistical median net income and support set accordingly. The court can also impute income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed. If there is a valid statutory basis, the court can deviate the amount of support either upward or downward.

The court can also order a parent to contribute to the post-secondary (college) education expense of their children.

After the net income for both parents is calculated, it is added together to determine how much total support is required for the children. Once a combined support figure is calculated, a proportionate share of the support is awarded to each parent based on the percentage their net income represents of the combined total. The nonresidential parent meets their obligation by paying child support.

The amount a nonresidential parent pays for current child support is limited by law. The nonresidential parent’s monthly child support payment should not exceed 45 percent of his or her net income. This law does not limit the amount of a judgment that can be established for delinquent child support. It also may not include additional child related expenses such as daycare and medical insurance. State law also specifies that a support obligation should not reduce the paying parent’s net income below the need standard (currently $1,197 per month as of January 26, 2013).

The legislature updated the laws changing how we calculate Child Support in the State of Washington effective October 1, 2009.

Some of the changes to the child support calculations were as follows:

The Child Support Schedules start at combined net income of $1,000 instead of $600.

  • The Child Support Schedules continue to a combined net income of $12,000, instead of stopping at $5,000 (presumptive) and $7,000 (advisory).
  • Some overtime and 2nd job income can be excluded from income.
  • The deduction for retirement contributions from gross income is increased from $2,000 to $5,000 per year.
  • The method of determining income to be imputed to a parent when records are lacking has been expanded in a hierarchy.
  • Health care costs (to be shared) have been defined.
  • The minimum child support payment has been increased from $25 per child per month to $50 per child per month.

This could have a significant effect on many Child Support Orders, increasing the amounts that will be due in the State of Washington. Child support can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances. If you would like to have your child support order reviewed to determine the amount of child support under the new laws, please call our office.