How Is Child Support Calculated in Washington?
The child support calculus in Washington is based on a formula that uses the parents’ combined net monthly income and the number of children. Those two factors determine the amount of basic financial support each child should receive every month. How much each parent pays and how payment is made differs in every case.
Income is based on a variety of sources, including but not limited to salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, military pay, interest and dividends, trust proceeds, unemployment, workers’ compensation, disability, and Social Security.
In addition to income, there are key factors the court considers in rendering a child support agreement, including:
- The child’s best interests and needs;
- The amount of time each parent spends with the child as part of the child custody agreement; and,
- The percentage of the combined net monthly income earned by each parent.
If a parent chooses to become voluntarily unemployed or underemployed in an attempt to reduce their child support obligation, the court will “impute” their income. That means that a parent's net monthly income will be based on what they should be making, not on what they actually are at the time.
How Can Child Support Agreements Be Changed?
Child support arrangements can be modified. Either parent may ask the court to revisit an existing child support agreement if they believe other factors should be considered, such as the additional income of one parent provided by a spouse, domestic partner, or by the children themselves.
Child support paid to children from other relationships can figure into the equation. In addition, if a rare source of income was used to calculate the initial agreement, such as a one-time employment bonus, lottery winnings, or inheritance, the parent could ask the court to recalculate their level of support. New disparities between the cost of living for each parent, tax burdens, and debt might also prompt revision.
A substantial change in a parent’s or a child’s circumstances can also provide grounds for modification of an existing agreement. This would include such events as a parent’s loss of a job or benefits, such as medical insurance, a parent’s medical emergency, the birth of another child requiring financial support, or a change in the child’s health status and medical needs.
When Does Child Support End?
In general, child support is terminated when the child reaches age 18 or becomes an emancipated minor. Support could continue if the child is disabled or there are other factors that limit their ability to become self-sufficient.