For over 18 years I have handled child support cases in Kitsap County. Following is a brief summary of the basics of a child support case.
WHO PAYS CHILD SUPPORT?
Parents have a legal obligation to support their minor children and that obligation exists or continues if the parties are married, divorced, separated or were never married. In Washington parents can include natural parents, adoptive parents and domestic partners. Court ordered child support only comes into play if the parties have never lived together or when parties divorce, dissolve a domestic partnership or separate. In all divorces with minor children courts are required to order child support. Child support will be paid to the parent with whom the children reside the majority of the time.
HOW IS THE AMOUNT OF CHILD SUPPORT DETERMINED?
The amount of child support in Washington State is based on a table called the Washington State Child Support Schedule. This is a table created by the state legislature and codified into law. The table and the rules for applying it can be found at Chapter 26.19 RCW (Revised Code of Washington). The table sets the amount of child support based on the total of the net incomes of the parents and the number and ages of the children. The table gives what is called a "basic support obligation:" a total amount that is considered to be adequate to support the child or children. That basic support obligation is allocated between the parents based on each parent’s share of the combined monthly net income. For instance, if the parent ordered to pay support earns 60% of the total net income of both parents, then that parent will pay 60% of the amount shown on the table. The amounts in the table are legally "presumptive:" the courts are required to order the amount of support calculated from the table unless there is a specific circumstance justifying a "deviation." The reasons for deviation listed in the statute are things such as debts of the paying parent, children from other relationships and the residential schedule for the children. These reasons for deviation are strictly defined in the law and a good attorney can help you to find out how or if these rules apply to your case.
WHAT IS NET INCOME?
Since child support is based on the total net incomes of the parents it is important to have that income calculated accurately. In a case involving child support the parents are required to document their incomes, providing pay stubs, business records, W-2's and income tax returns. These documents are required to be filed with the court and provided to the other party or their lawyer. These financial source documents are filed in a sealed file that is not accessible to the public. The law defines exactly how net income is calculated, specifying the things that can be deducted from gross income. The issue of this net income calculation is central to many child support disputes and an attorney can insure that the calculation is done correctly and in a way that protects your interests and those of your children.
These essays are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be nor should they be taken as legal advice. Consult the attorney for legal advice related to your specific case.