- How a child support order is determined in Washington state
- Modifying (changing) child support payments
After a divorce, both parents are legally required to share the physical and financial responsibility of raising their children. Typically, one parent will be the primary custodial parent. The noncustodial parent will have scheduled parenting time and provide financial support through monthly child support payments.
Online Washington child support calculator tool
Every state has its own methods and formulas to determine the amount of child support that one parent must pay to the other. If you are seeking a divorce in Washington and have children, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services has developed an online child support calculator to give you an idea of what you can expect in the way of child support.
This digital tool will prompt you for various personal details about your financial life and then give you an estimate of what monetary compensation might look like in your child support case. But this figure is only a ballpark estimate. The court can consider other factors that are not reflected in the online tool, and it will make the final decision.
What factors determine child support payments in Washington?
Child support in Washington is based on both parents’ income, the number of children requiring support, and the special needs and expenses of those children.
At its most basic, child support is meant to cover a child’s housing, food, and clothing. But, of course, there are other expenses involved when it comes to raising your children. When determining child support, the court will consider the following:
- Both parents’ income: Your income is not just your salary; it’s all forms of income you may receive, such as bonuses, commission, overtime, tips, investment income, rental income, and other forms of financial compensation.
- The number of children you are supporting: The more children you have, the higher the support payment will be.
- Your assets and debts and your spouse’s assets and debts: Your financial resources (and the amount of debt you have) may be considered by the judge when ordering child support.
- The expense of raising your children: If you have expenses such as child care or other education costs, medical insurance premiums, or healthcare costs – or if your children have other significant expenses – these will be considered by the court when determining the monthly amount.
- How much time each parent spends with the kids: A parent with primary physical custody and a more significant percentage of parenting time usually translates to more financial responsibility. This may be reflected in the amount required of the parent paying support.
As a child support payor, even if you were to remarry and have other children to support, you would still be responsible for the child support ordered by the court during your divorce proceedings. This child support would continue until the child turns 18, graduates from high school without pursuing a post-secondary education, marries, or dies. You can only change your child support obligation through a modification filed through the court system.
Can you modify child support payments in Washington?
After your divorce, your life will continue to change. These changes may affect your financial life and your ability to care for your children. If a substantial change occurs in your life or your ex’s life, you may consider petitioning the court for a change in child support to reflect your other life changes.
Here are some life changes that may justify a child support modification:
- The paying parent loses their job or experiences a substantial drop in their income.
- The paying parent gets a significant raise or promotion and has the ability to pay more child support.
- There is a significant change in the division of your parenting time.
- There are substantial new expenses for your child, such as medical support costs or extensive education costs.
It’s important to note that courts are often reluctant to modify child support. First, they want to see clear and ample case information and understand how any major life changes have affected both parties.
If you have questions about child support in Washington state, we are here to help. We invite you to schedule a free 15-minute call with an account coordinator to ask questions and learn more about how we can help make the bumpy road to divorce a lot smoother.