WashingtonChild Support Laws
Washington Child Support Guide :: Table of Contents
Child support is an ongoing payment by a non-custodial parent to assist with the financial support of their children. Child support payments are often determined during the process of dissolution of a marriage through divorce, though the only requirements for requesting child support payments are establishment of paternity and maternity.
Child support is handled on a state level, and Washington has a set of specific child support guidelines. On this page you can learn about how child support is calculated in Washington, how custody split and extraordinary costs affect child support payments, and more.
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Washington uses the "income share" method for calculating child support payments, which is designed to ensure that both the custodial and non-custodial parents contribute to their child's upkeep.
In the event of parents sharing custody of a child, the Washington judge who sets child support may deviate from the basic child support formula to account for this. Other special situations accounted for under Washington's child support law include childcare costs, extraordinary medical costs and college costs. These costs may be additions to the basic Washington child support order.
What are the Conditions to Modify an Order for Child Support?An order of child support may be modified one year or more after it has been entered without a showing of substantially changed circumstances if:
- the order creates an economic hardship on either party or the child
- a party requests adjustment in an order for child support that was based on guidelines that determined the amount according to the child's age, and the child is no longer in the age category on which the current support amount was initially based on
- a child is still in high school after age 18, and there is a need to extend support to complete high school
- To add an automatic adjustment that follows RCW 26.09.100.
If 2 years have passed from the date of entry of the order or the date of the last adjustment/modification to the order, the order can be adjusted without showing substantially changed circumstances based on:
- Changes in income of the parents
- Changes in the economic table/standards in chapter 26.19 RCW.
The department of social and health services can move to modify an order of child support in a nonassistance case if:
- The child support order is at least 25 percent above/below the child support amount set using the standard calculation defined in RCW 26.19.011
- The department determined the case meets review criteria
- A review is requested by a party to the order or another state/jurisdiction
The department of social and health services can file an action to modify/adjust orders of child support if:
- The child benefits from public assistance
- a party in a nonassistance case has requested review of the order
- Another state/jurisdiction requested to modify the order.
Child support can be arranged out of court by a mutual support agreement between the parents, or can be decided in Washington family court through a child support order. In Washington, a number of factors are taken into account when determining the amount of child support to be paid in court. Here is an explanation of the two most common methods used to calculate basic child support amounts.
Income Share Method
Under the income share model, the court uses economic tables to estimate the total monthly cost of raising the children. The non-custodial parent pays a percentage of the calculated cost that is based on their proportional share of both parents' combined income.
Example: The non-custodial parent of one child has an income of $2,000 per month, and the custodial parent has an income of $1,000 per month. The court estimates that the cost of raising one child is $1,000 a month. The non-custodial parent's income is 66.6% of the parent's total combined income. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $666 per month in child support, or 66.6% of the total child support obligation.
Percentage Of Income Method
This method of calculating child support is simple - a set percentage of the non-custodial parent's income is paid monthly to the custodial parent to cover basic child support expenses. The percentage paid may stay the same, or vary if the non-custodial parent's income changes.
Example: The non-custodial parent of one child has an income of $2,000 per month. The court orders a flat percentage of 25% of the non-custodial parent's income to be paid in child support to the custodial parent. Therefore, the non-custodial parent pays $500 per month in child support. If the non-custodial parent's monthly income changes, the dollar amount they pay in child support will change as well.
Washington Child Support FAQ
- How does having shared custody of the child affect child support in Washington?
- How are extraordinary medical costs treated by child support in Washington?
- How are child care costs treated by child support in Washington?
- Does child support cover college education expenses in Washington?
- How is child support enforced in Washington?
- What are child support arrears?
- How are child support payments taxed in Washington?
How does having shared custody of the child affect child support in Washington?
All states have a method of modifying the amount of child support owed in cases where the custody agreement provides for joint or shared custody of a child between both parents.
Washington law allows the judge overseeing the child support order to use a shared custody agreement as justification for a variation from the state's general child support calculations. This means that if the non-custodial parent shares parenting time with the custodial parent, the judge might reduce the amount of child support owed to account for the resources spent by the non-custodial parent during their time with the child.
How are extraordinary medical costs treated by child support in Washington?
Washington has specialized guidelines for the sharing of a child's extraordinary medical care costs that are separate from, and in addition to, basic child support payments. Extraordinary medical costs are generally costs generated by things such as illness, hospital visits, or costly procedures such as getting braces.
Washington treats extraordinary medical care costs as a "mandatory deduction" for basic child support. This means that if the non-custodial parent pays child care costs, the portion of the total monthly child care costs attributed to the custodial partner are deducted from the noncustodial partner's monthly child support payment. If the custodial parent pays for child care, the non-custodial parent must pay their share in addition to basic child support.
How are child care costs treated by child support in Washington?
Due to the high costs of child care for a single payment, Washington has specialized guidelines that consider child care costs separately from the general costs of raising a child for the purposes of calculating child support payments.
Washington treats child care costs as a "mandatory deduction" for basic child support. This means that if the non-custodial parent pays child care costs, the portion of the total monthly child care costs attributed to the custodial partner are deducted from the noncustodial partner's monthly child support payment. If the custodial parent pays for child care, the non-custodial parent must pay their share in addition to basic child support.
Does child support cover college education expenses in Washington?
Washington state law does allow courts to order the non-custodial parent to contribute to their child's college education upon graduating high school. Whether post-secondary education support is ordered, and the amount that may be ordered, varies depending on the situation.
How is child support enforced in Washington?
In the state of Washington, child support is enforced by the state child support agency. The state agency handles the location of non-custodial parents, enforcement of support orders, and the handling of unpaid child support arrears.
What are child support arrears?
Child support arrears are the amount of child support that is delinquent, or unpaid, by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. Child support arrears may be collected by the state through wage garnishment, bank levy. withholding of Washington welfare benefits, or other collection methods.
How are child support payments taxed in Washington?
Under IRS guidelines, the recepient of child support does not need to pay federal tax on child support payments, and the payer of child support cannot deduct their child support payments. This differs from the federal taxation of alimony payments, which are treated as taxable income by the receiver and are deductible by the payor. Washington tax law may vary on tax treatment of child support.