Washington State Child Support Laws

August 1, 2022

In the state of Washington, the amount of child support you will pay is determined not only by the income of the parents but also by what the child needs. The primary goal of the Washington state child support laws is to ensure that the child has the resources to meet their fundamental requirements, which include adequate nutrition, clothing, and medical attention. When primary custody is involved or if there are special needs involved, then the amount of child support may be adjusted accordingly. This is important to understand.

How is Child Support Calculated in Washington?

You need the gross and net salaries of both parents in order to calculate child support in the state of Washington. The total amount of money obtained from any and all sources is referred to as a parent’s gross income. The following things fall under gross income:

  • Salary
  • Bonuses
  • Commissions
  • Pension
  • Severance pay
  • Military pay

Gross income can include money from other sources as well, such as dividends or a trust. Even a parent who is not working but who receives benefits such as social security, workers’ compensation, or disability insurance may be considered to have income for the purpose of paying child support.

After determining the gross salaries of both parents, deductions are made to understand their net incomes. This includes deducting state and federal taxes and any other court-ordered support already paid. You can also deduct some retirement and pension payments, dues, and business expenditures from a parent’s gross income.

There are times that optional pension payments can be made of up to $2,000 each year. Talk with your attorney to understand this better. Your attorney can explain this to you in more detail. If you are self-employed, you may document standard business expenditures and any taxes associated with self-employment. You are required to have proof of the costs incurred by the business.

When a household has an income of fewer than one thousand dollars, the responsibility is calculated based on the resources available to it and the amount it costs to maintain itself. The minimum amount of support must be at least $50 per child per month unless otherwise documented.

Changes are occasionally made to Washington State Child Support Laws. It’s vital that you work with an attorney who can explain any changes that relate to you, so you understand exactly what you will be getting to assist in your care for the child or what you will be paying to help take care of your child.

The latest changes occurred in 2019 in Washington state. At that time, the child support table was ten years old. Changes were made due to concerns regarding the accuracy of child support payments that were previously determined.


What Adjustments Were Made to the Child Support System in 2019?

The formula historically used to determine child support received a major overhaul in 2019. Before that, child support payments were determined using both the families’ total net income as well as the number of children living in each house. It was determined that using this approach to calculate child support resulted in insufficient funding for parents who had children younger than 12 years old. In particular, the amount of child support wasn’t enough to pay for everyday expenses such as food and housing, going to the doctor, and getting around town. Since this is the reason for child support in the first place, changes were needed.

With the changes, the age thresholds were eliminated, creating a base child support payment that is now the same amount for all children. Parents who have children who are younger than twelve years old will now have the ability to obtain increased child support payments, even if their divorce was finalized before the first of the year in 2019.


What About Assistance for Older Children Who Are Over the Age of Twelve?

The changes had little effect on children between the ages of 12 and 18. Calculation of support for children this age remained the same.


Who Might Be Affected by Changes in Child Support in Washington?

If your divorce was concluded before January 1, 2019, and your children are under the age of 12, you have the right to submit a request for a modification of the amount that is being paid as child support. There is no deadline to submit this request, but doing it sooner rather than later is recommended. Your child custody arrangement that the courts assigned is not affected by the new child support formula.


Important Facts To Know

Washington state has a projected child custody calculator. This tool allows parents to obtain an estimate of how much child support they will have to pay. When completing these calculations, it is vital to assess existing financial situations in a realistic manner in order to prepare for this additional expense. This expense can be significant in budgeting post-divorce. If you have questions when using this tool, consult your lawyer to help with the confusion. Make sure to provide them with the most up-to-date financial information.


Should I Talk to an Attorney About My Child Support Options?

If you are considering divorce, it is a good idea to talk with an attorney about all aspects of the divorce, including child support. This is especially important if you and your spouse have larger assets that need to be worked through, as well as children that will come into play.

A court in the state of Washington can order either parent to pay child support. The amount of child support that you are awarded is determined by the custody arrangement, as well as the income of each parent. In most cases, the parent who does not have primary physical custody of the child, also known as the “noncustodial parent,” is the one responsible for paying child support.


What Additional Money Might Be Paid Out Beyond Child Support in Washington?

It is important to understand that parents might be responsible for paying for a variety of additional costs on top of typical child support. Parents are responsible for splitting the costs of child care and other expenses. This might include medical and school costs, plus other supports that may arise.

Parents are not allowed to pay less child support than the amount specified in the Washington child support guidelines unless it is determined to be best for the child. Any changes need to go through the courts.


Can you Contest a Child Support Award in Washington?

There are times when the recommended amount of child support needs to be reconsidered. Either it’s not fair to one part of the child. Either parent can make a request to modify the amount that will be required prior to a court order being issued. If a redetermination is requested, the court will consider a lot of variables before making its decision. Some of these variables are as follows:

  • Child support from other relationships
  • Income from a new husband, domestic partner, or another adult
  • Child care expenses
  • Monetary rewards or other forms of wealth
  • Supplemental income received
  • Costs for a disabled child
  • Custody Schedule


Enforcement of Support Orders in the State of Washington

A parent who violates a court order by failing to pay child support is in contempt of court. This means you could receive legal or financial punishments. This might include the garnishment of wages. When a child support order has been issued, it remains in effect until the child reaches the age of 18 or becomes emancipated.

Either parent can petition the court for a modification or revision in the child support order. If it has been less than a year since the order was issued, you will need to prove there has been a significant change in your circumstances. If you’ve lost a child, gained another child, had increased expenses due to a medical issue, or had employment changes, you might need to consider requesting a modification. There needs to be a good reason to request the changes. You changing a job on your own to make less money will not necessarily give you a pass.

You are exempt from having to demonstrate that there has been a material shift in the circumstances after a period of one year. Instead, the court might increase or decrease the amount of support if it is determined that complying with the order’s provisions has resulted in a significant degree of financial strain being placed on either parent or the child.

Discussing the issues with your attorney is best in this case. If you are suffering financially and are truly doing your best, you have the right to ask for changes.


Making Tax Payments on Child Support Obligations in Washington

There is no tax benefit associated with paying child support, and parents who receive child support payments on behalf of their children are exempt from reporting that money as income on their tax returns.

Typically, the parent who has custody of the child is eligible to claim either the dependent deduction or the child tax credit. It is possible for parents to divide the dependent deduction between themselves, with one parent claiming it in years that are odd and the other parent claiming it in years that are even. Working together may be best in this situation unless the relationship is aggressive. If possible, discuss this from the beginning and stick with that decision.


Don’t Put Off Consulting with an Experienced Child Support Attorney in Washington

Knowing your rights and what child support you will be responsible for or what you may receive if you are not the one paying is an important part of the divorce settlement. There are times that the child support issues may cause parents to stay married rather than go their separate ways.

It is important to work with your lawyer through the whole process and for any questions that may arise later. Washington State, child support laws can be hard to navigate. Leaning on an expert who can support you is key.

Related Content: How is Child Support Calculated with Shared Custody in WA?

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