the ins and outs of child support

Frequently Asked Child Support Questions

Goldberg Jones Child Support, Finances Leave a Comment

In the wake of divorce, child support is one of the biggest expenses many parents face. These ongoing payments made by one parent provide for the continued financial benefit of children following the end of a marriage or other relationship.

How Does Child Support Work In Washington?

Child support is a continuing issue in divorce and child custody cases. Every situation is different, but there is a general formula for calculating the amount.

Paid by one parent to the other, child support is designed to help maintain the children in question. Part of a parent’s legal duty to support their kids, these payments cover the basic necessities.

This includes providing:

  • Food,
  • A safe place to live,
  • Clothing,
  • Medical care,
  • And child care, among other basic needs.

A parent’s ability to pay also factors into the child support award. The court considers each party’s income and the needs of the children. This amount is called the basic support obligation, usually a monthly payment from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. 

Related Reading: What is the Washington Division of Child Support?

Frequently Asked Questions

Child support can be a complex issue. Figuring out how much you owe is a complicated process with many moving parts. With that in mind, here are some frequently asked questions when it comes to this topic.

What Constitutes Income?

The number the courts look at to calculate support payments is your net income. This is what you earn after taxes and things of that nature have been removed, your take-home pay. You can deduct federal income tax, L&I insurance, Social Security, mandatory pension contributions and mandatory union dues, and sometimes voluntary pension offerings.

Related Reading: COVID-19, Job Loss, and Support

Will My New Spouse/Partner’s Income Impact Payments?

While only your income and that of the custodial parent are included in the calculation, the court may take your overall financial situation into account. This is exceedingly rare, but in some circumstances, the court may consider the income of a new spouse or live-in partner.

Related Reading: How Washington Calculates Child Support Payments

What If I Can’t Afford The Payments?

In certain situations, the court may set payments below the basic support obligation. There are stiff penalties, however, if you don’t pay. You may qualify for a reduction if:

  • You fall below the federal poverty line,
  • The amount is more than 45% of your after-tax income,
  • You support other children,
  • If you split custody or have significant visitation,
  • Or also meet other qualifications. 

Related Reading: Does the Loss of a Job Change the Support Amount?

What If Payments Don’t Cover All Expenses?

The basic support obligation may not cover all of the child’s expenses. In some instances, the court may order the parents to share some costs. When it comes to uninsured medical expenses, insurance premiums, daycare, education, and long-distance transportation, parents often split payments.

Related Reading: Modifying a Child Support Order

When Does Child Support End?

In most cases, support ends when the child turns 18-years-old or graduates high school, whichever comes later. This isn’t always the case, however. The court may order support for college or vocational school, known as post-secondary support. In these cases, the court may consider the age, need, and parental expectations of the child; the child’s desires, abilities, and aptitudes; the parents’ level of education and standard of living; and more. Also, if a child is disabled and dependent on parental care, child support may continue.

These are just a few of the many questions and issues surrounding child support. As you see, it can be a complex endeavor and it depends on a multitude of factors. In cases like these, you may be best served by hiring an attorney with experience in this field to guide you through. Whatever money you spend now may save you much more down the road.

Related Reading: When Child Support Goes Beyond 18

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