How Child Support is Calculated in Washington State

The Washington State Support Schedule dictates how child support is calculated in Washington. The court utilizes the information detailed in this support schedule to define terms, identify legal guardians, and calculate monthly child support payments.

What is Child Support

Child support is paid by one parent to another to help supplement the financial needs of a child if that parent does not live with the child anymore. Child support payments are meant to help pay for medical care, food, extracurricular activities, and other expenses involved in caring for a child’s needs. 

The exact amount of money that parents pay in child support is determined by factors such as income, taxes (and exemptions), and overnight stays at each parent’s house. Though not exact, the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) offers this quick child support estimator to help paying parents calculate a rough estimate of what their monthly contribution to their child will be. This calculator takes into consideration the monthly income of the parent paying child support, the parent receiving child support, and the number of children that the individuals have together. 

Again, keep in mind that this is not an exact calculation of what monthly child support will be. This tool is best utilized to get a quick, rough estimate of what payment may be. 

How Child Support is Calculated

How child support is calculated primarily stems from each parent’s monthly income. Monthly income includes all income received by an individual on a monthly basis. This number is what the courts look at to create the child payment is after-taxes total compensation. 

Notwithstanding wages, monthly income includes:

  • Wages earned through hourly or salaried work.
  • Tips.
  • Rewards.
  • Unemployment and disability benefits..
  • Interest earned on investments.
  • Commissions.
  • Public help.
  • Government-backed retirement/benefits.
  • Income from rental properties.
  • Prize winnings.

Other factors considered in how child support is calculated include:

  • Taxes.
  • Tax deductions.
  • Insurance.
  • Union dues.
  • Mandatory retirement contributions.
  • Funds owed to any other dependents.

How Long Must Child Support Payments Be Paid?

If a couple separates or divorces while a child is still a minor, the parent who has been paying child support will be obligated to pay child support until that child turns 18 or graduates secondary school, whatever happens later.

There are, however, some circumstances in which a parent may be obligated to continue paying child support even after a child reaches the age of majority. If a child is still dependent on their parents after high school, the court may determine that post-secondary help is required.

Under this, parents of children with severe intellectual or physical disabilities that keep them from being able to take care of themselves may also be obligated to continue paying child support in order to take care of that child, even into adulthood.

What If I Cannot Afford the Payments?

The court might set payments beneath the fundamental help commitment in specific circumstances. There are penalties, in any case, if you do not pay. Failure to pay child support can:

  • Negatively affect your credit score
  • Garnish your wages and other income
  • Incur a lien on your property, including secure of property and/or vehicles
  • Result in a suspension of driver’s license 

You may be eligible for a decrease 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.
  • Alternatively, also meet other qualifications.

If you are going through a separation or divorce and need to navigate the waters of family law and child support, contact a compassionate family law attorney at The Narrows Law Group.