what's involved in child support payment

How Child Support is Calculated in Washington

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Going through a separation, divorce, or custody dispute creates stressful situations. Trying to calculate child support and determine custody only adds to that stress.

Parenting plans and support arrangements are complex areas of law. A plethora of issues often arise when working to resolve disputes. One facet of child custody that garners a lot of questions is: how does Washington calculate child support?

Before tackling what factors impact support payments, we first need to understand what the term means.

What Is Child Support?

Child support refers to payments from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. This means the parent the child lives with the bulk of the time. This money provides for the child’s financial needs. This includes food, housing, medical care, and more.

Washington calculates child support payments using a specific formula. This equation factors in the income of both parents, along with other figures, to reach determine the proper amount.

Most often, these payments recur monthly. In most cases, this lasts until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever comes later. In a few situations, however, the court can order them to continue beyond those limits.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

The Washington State Support Schedule provides the standard basis for calculation.

The court uses this to definite its terms, lay out the specifics, and calculate the final amount.

Both gross and net incomes impact how the court calculates child support. However, net income, the money taken home after taxes, ultimately determines support payments.

The child’s age plays a significant role. After the age of 12, the court may modify the amount to account for the added expense of raising a teenager. During this time, children often may more requests and the cost of care grows as they age.

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How Long Do Payments Last?

As said, support obligations usually end when the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever occurs later.

In some circumstances, the court awards post-secondary support. This continues financial support after their 18th birthday or graduation, sharing the financial burden of college or other educational endeavors.

Generally, you must file the petition for post-secondary support prior to the child turning 18 or graduating high school.

In cases where a child can’t mentally or physically care for themselves, the court may also order continuing support. As with post-secondary support, you must also address this ahead of time.

Related Reading: When Child Support Continues Past 18

What if You Can’t Afford Support Payments?

In cases where a parent suffers financial hardship and can’t make support payments, the court may provide recourse to accommodate the circumstances. Most common of these is the loss of a job. This represents the most frequent reason for a change in economic situation.

The court requires documentation that proves unemployment or a drastic change in income. Otherwise, they assume you will make payments as usual. You’re also expected to actively search for another source of income to keep up with the obligation.

Even if you can show an extreme, long-term income drop, the court often still requires parents to continue making child support payments. Once in place, they’re reluctant to change these orders.

Related Reading: When And How Can I Modify My Support Payments?
Related Reading: COVID 19, Job Loss, and Support Modifications

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