Any legal case involving children is highly emotional and can often feel like no one is winning (and everyone is losing). Hiring a family law attorney when you are pursuing legal action regarding child support in Bellevue, WA, is a smart choice that will help all parties involved so that the parents can get back to the most important job they have—loving their children.
Child support can be tricky business, especially when it comes to making sure you and your child get what you deserve and that the other parent is held accountable. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services has guidelines and requirements regarding child support but making sure you have an attorney on your side to help you navigate the process is only going to benefit you.
In Washington, child support orders are enacted and then valid until the child turns 18 or legally emancipates themselves. This means that if a separation or initial paternity agreement takes place early on in a child’s life, you could have years and years where a family law attorney could benefit your family immensely.
Determining Child Support Amounts in Bellevue
The first step in determining the final decision in a child support case is gathering all the information about how much care each parent gives the child and how much money each parent brings in monthly. This matter is sometimes black and white, but sometimes not, and it often changes over time.
A family law attorney will help sort out all the information of housing, food, clothing, educational expenses, medical bills, etc. that is required to raise the child (or children) in question, and help you decide if this is a necessary element that goes beyond Washington’s initial child support guidelines.
Although both parents must legally contribute to the raising of their child, oftentimes custody arrangements require that one parent gives most of the care, while the other only sees, feeds, and houses the child for a small portion of the time. In cases such as this, the parent who sees the child less often will pay the primary caregiver a set monthly amount to help cover expenses.
This is because in Bellevue, WA, it is assumed that the parent with majority custody spends money on the child throughout their time together. Washington State has particular calculation methods; however, the family court can make the final decision on amounts and timeframes, so a Bellevue family law attorney can help you organize your case so that it benefits everyone the most.
Initial calculations for the paying parent, or obligor, in Bellevue, WA include:
- The net income of the paying parent.
- This is their gross income less taxes, union dues, and health insurance coverage for the parent and children.
- Gross income includes regular wages or salary, bonus payments, commissions, military retirement pay, pensions, severance, dividends, account interests, royalties, and trusts.
- The percentage is based on net earnings that do not exceed $9,200/month (This is the current figure; it is recalculated by the state every six years.)
- This amount ends up as a required 20% of the obligor’s net income each month, plus 5% for each additional child.
- Parents who are unemployed and still receive social security, worker’s comp, government assistance, or disability are still required to list this income and pay a portion of it as child support.
However, if the obligor is already paying out to another parent for different children, their required amount may be less. Some parents choose to pay more than the court-sanctioned amount, but they can never pay less.
Gifts, prize winnings, alimony from a previous marriage, and food stamps are not included in gross income amounts. A new spouse’s income is also not included in either the obliger’s or the recipient’s income.
Child support guidelines are in place in Washington as a baseline, but the courts know that every family has a unique situation. A family law attorney can help you make sure you put your best case forward.
A Note on Taxes
Child support payments are not, and have never been, a tax write-off. They are a regular expense that is a part of having children, and since the parent with majority custody doesn’t get to write off their child’s living expenses, neither does the obligor get to write off their payments. On the flip side, the recipient does not have to report it as additional income.
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Challenging a Child Support Decision in Bellevue
Each parent is within their rights to challenge a decision made by the courts. If you feel that a court’s sanctioned amount is unfair to you (whether you are the obligor or the recipient) or to your child, a family law attorney can help you plan what information to bring forward so that the court can see your case more clearly.
Information that can be looked at and considered includes:
- New spousal income that greatly affects the household.
- Other child support from previous or later relationships.
- Incidental wealth, such as gifts, prizes, or inheritances.
- Exceptional income of the child from something such as acting, modeling, or sports endorsements.
- Bonuses or overtime.
- Taxes and other governmental debt.
- Significant differences in the parents’ lifestyles and incomes.
- Special needs of a disabled or extraordinary child.
- Amount of time each parent spends with said child.
- Children from other relationships and their particular needs.
Adjusting Amounts as Time Goes On in Bellevue
Many people think that having a family law attorney is something you only need when going through a divorce or establishing paternity, and then you’re done. In reality, though, having a lawyer that your family knows and trusts, and who knows your case, is incredibly beneficial because the need for an attorney usually doesn’t go away during a family’s years co-parenting their children.
Even though child support payments are decided upon in the initial separation phase, this doesn’t mean they are final. Over the years, the case can be looked at again when life circumstances change and the amount of money is costs to raise the child changes, too. If one or both parents move to a different area, change jobs to a higher or lower-paying field, or if the child requires educational or medical expenses that weren’t originally accounted for, a family law attorney in Bellevue, WA, can help you sort things out so that everyone feels that they are getting a fair settlement.
Some things that might change as time goes on that need to be re-evaluated include, but aren’t limited to:
- The child’s age and specific needs.
- Both parents’ ability to contribute financially.
- Custody arrangements and amount of time spent with each parent.
- Total financial support available from all parties.
- Cost of childcare.
- Cost of educational or extra-curricular activities.
- Cost of medical expenses outside of insurance.
- Note: If your child has specific disabilities that will require care for life, then child support might be sanctioned for their entire lifespan as opposed to it ending at 18 years old.
For the first year, a child support decision is to remain in place unchanged unless either parent can show proof of a significant life event that changes their circumstance, such as a new baby, lost job, or medical situation. A lost job or voluntary unemployment is not a significant event in itself, either, unless there is a valid and extenuating circumstance that has caused the job loss. After a year, though, there isn’t a need for a significant change to have happened to request an adjustment.
Subpoenaing a Parent for the Required Payments
Unfortunately, there are many cases in which a parent fails to make their child support payments, for whatever reason. As stated, however, child support is a legal obligation and if left ignored, the courts have the right to get involved. In Bellevue, WA, a family law attorney can help you with the required paperwork and litigation to find your child’s parent and demand payment to help with the raising of your child. If the parent-at-fault is working and being paid wages with a W-2 on file, then the government can even garnish their wages if they continue to refuse to pay.
As stated, even if a parent becomes unemployed, this isn’t an excuse to stop child support payments. They might be lowered because of a new situation, but the obligor is still required to pay a portion of any income that comes in. It takes time for the courts to sanction new amounts, so in a case like this, a family law attorney can help either the recipient or the obligor (or both) keep track of money coming in and going out, and who deserves what when all is said and done.
The courts can also take action to ensure that tax refunds are intercepted if there aren’t wages to be garnished, and the defaulting parent could continue to incur financial penalties, on top of child support amounts that continue adding up as time goes on.
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The Best Interest of the Child
Courts and legalities are in place to make sure that all citizens can go through life as fairly and equally as possible. However, because of the nature of the system, sometimes the basic rules, foundations, and guidelines don’t fit every family’s mold. There are also situations where a parent doesn’t fulfill their obligations and this hurts everyone involved.
Call Today For A Free Case Evaluation From An Experienced Bellevue Family Law Attorney
The family law attorneys at Aberdeen Law Firm will take on your case while getting to know your family as a unit, not just as a case number. This way, your child can grow up well-supported financially and you can concentrate on guiding and leading them into becoming a successful, well-rounded adult.