You’re in the middle of a divorce, and you and your spouse have children together. In Washington, that means that your case includes child support issues. The final order can significantly impact the financial future of you and your children. Having one of Bellevue’s experienced child support lawyers in your corner can help ensure that you receive the correct child support order.
How Does Child Support Work in Bellevue, Washington?
In Washington, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children until they reach adulthood. Usually, that means that one of the parents will pay support to the other to help offset the financial responsibility of feeding and clothing the children. Child support is generally paid by the parent with the visitation schedule to the parent who has the children with them. However, even if the children share equal time with the parents, child support is a factor in the court case.
Typically, child support is decided using the state’s calculation method. The court has discretion in how child support is ordered, however. Child support calculations are based on several considerations combined with the child’s best interests.
Each parent’s income is part of the calculation, as is their overall ability to pay for things the child needs. Usually, if one parent makes significantly more than the other, that parent is required to pay support to the other parent. The goal is to keep things between the households as financially equal as possible.
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Guidelines for Calculating Child Support in Bellevue, Washington
In Bellevue, as in other locations in Washington, the calculation method for child support is pretty straightforward. The amount that the paying party is required to pay in child support is based on calculations that account for the following things:
- Net income of the paying parent: To calculate net income, you subtract taxes, union dues, and any withheld health insurance expenses from their income.
- The percentage paid by the person who owes child support is based on earnings that aren’t more than $9,200 a month. (This figure is recalculated every six years by the state.)
- The person paying child support must pay 20 percent of the net income for the first child. An additional 5 percent is required for every child, up to 5 children after that. If the parent is paying for six or more children, their spending has to be at least what would be paid for five children.
- If the person ordered to pay child support is already paying support for other children from a previous relationship, it can decrease the amount of child support they have to pay in this case.
- A parent who isn’t working but receives worker’s compensation, social security, government aid, or disability payments must list these as income. It is subject to use in calculating child support amounts.
Some things don’t have to be reported as income for child support calculations. Those include gifts, food stamps, prize winnings, and alimony received from a previous marriage. The court also doesn’t consider the income of either party’s new spouse.
These are simply guidelines, and the child support order associated with your final divorce order may be different based on the court’s discretion. Sometimes parents can elect to pay more child support than the court orders, but they can never pay less than is ordered.
Factors That Affect the Court’s Discretion Regarding Child Support
The court’s motivation is always in the best interests of the children. Sometimes the court will closely adhere to the child support guidelines. The court will use its discretion to make a better child support order for the child at other times. Any factors the court deems relevant can be considered in determining child support. These include, but aren’t limited to the following:
- The ages and needs of your children
- The ability of both parents to contribute to the support of their children
- How much time each parent spends with the children
- The complete sum of financial support available from both parents
- Childcare costs
- Costs surrounding special education or other educational expenses
- Health care costs above those paid by insurance
The courts understand that each family is unique, and therefore each divorce and child support case is unique. The only thing that is the same about every child support case is that it’s complicated. Dedicated child support lawyers can help you understand the process in Bellevue.
Can You Challenge a Child Support Decision in Bellevue, Washington?
Either parent has the right to challenge child support decisions made by the court. If you think you have received an unfair child support judgment, one of Bellevue’s child support lawyers can help you build your case proving the unfair nature of the order. Here are some things that the courts can consider when weighing whether to adjust a child support order.
- New spousal income has a profound effect on the household.
- Child support from other relationships.
- Gifts, prizes, inheritances, or other incidental wealth.
- The child’s income from such activities as acting, modeling, or sports endorsements.
- Overtime or bonuses at work.
- Taxes or other debts to the government.
- Drastic differences in lifestyles and incomes between the parents.
- Unique needs of an extraordinary or disabled child.
- How much time each parent spends with the child or children.
- The needs of children from other relationships.
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Adjustments to Child Support
While child support orders are established in the initial phases of separation and divorce, that doesn’t mean they are forever set. As time passes, life circumstances change, and so does the cost of raising a child. Your child support lawyer can help you decide if you should file for a change in child support based on your circumstances.
Some of the things that might change requiring the courts to revisit child support declarations include:
- The age and needs of the child.
- The ability of both parents to contribute to the financial care of the child.
- The amount of time each parent spends with the time and the custody arrangement in general.
- The total amount of financial support available from everyone in the child’s life.
- Childcare costs.
- Educational or extracurricular activity costs
- Medical costs beyond what insurance pays.
An important note about medical costs is that if your child has specific disabilities and you will be caring for them for the duration of their life, the child support you receive could be extended to include their entire life rather than just the first 18 years.
Within the first year of a child support order, the decision is to remain unchanged unless there is proof of a significant circumstance changing event. This could be a medical situation, a new baby, or a lost job with mitigating circumstances. After that first year, you don’t have to have a significant life change to request a child support review.
Moving Doesn’t Automatically Change Child Support
Each state determines child support payments so that payment amounts can vary depending on the state. That doesn’t mean that moving will automatically change your child support order. If a parent moves, they must adhere to the child support order from the original state.
There is a law controlling the issue of child support when parents move. It’s called the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). All 50 states have adopted the UIFSA to help parents resolve child support issues across state lines. According to UIFSA, unless a parent proves a change should be made, the courts in the new state must enforce whatever orders were put in place in the original state.
How Jurisdiction is Established for Child Support Modification Under UIFSA
What happens if you need to change your child support order, but your ex-spouse has moved to a different state? Or, what if you both have moved to a different state, but child support needs to be modified? What do you do?
There are rules governing interstate jurisdiction under UIFSA, and the rules can seem complicated. Here’s a brief overview of how it works.
When one parent still lives in the state that initially handed down the child support order, that state retains continuing jurisdiction. The person who moved away has to petition the court in the original state for any changes they may want to make.
If both parents have moved to another state, the person wanting to make a change can request their new state to order the change. If the state can establish personal jurisdiction over the other parent, it can grant the request.
Establishing Personal Jurisdiction Under UIFSA
If any of the following conditions apply, the state court can claim personal jurisdiction over a parent:
- A summons or notice is served personally to the parent within the new state.
- The parent voluntarily agrees for the court in the new state to hear the case.
- The parent doesn’t have an objection to jurisdiction.
- At any time in the past, the parent and child lived together in the new state.
- The parent was in the new state before the child was born and paid either prenatal expenses or support for the child.
- The child is in the state because of the parent whom the new state seeks personal jurisdiction.
- The child may have been conceived in the act of intercourse in the new state.
How the Aberdeen Law Firm Can Help With the Child Support in Bellevue
Child support varies from state to state. In Washington, both parents are responsible for the financial well-being of their children. Typically, the parent who has the least time with the children must pay child support to the parent who has them the most. Contact one of the child support lawyers at the Aberdeen Law Firm to request help with your child support case in Bellevue, Washington.
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