Child support is a fundamental legal obligation from a parent to a child. In Washington, the child support laws presume both parents owe support to their minor children. Although parents can agree to waive child support, the court must approve the agreement, but this rarely occurs.
Before we go any further, let me clear up an important point. Some parents have the misconception that if child support is not paid there is no right to visitation with the child. This is not true. Washington State law specifically states that child support obligations and visitation rights are not dependent on each other.
How is Child Support Calculated?
Parents are legally obligated to provide financial support to their children to cover basic needs and necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Most children have additional expenses that are dealt with separately from child support as explained below.
In Washington State, child support is calculated from the income of both parents. If both parents are employed on a full-time basis, calculations are pretty straight forward. However, if a parent works part-time, or is voluntarily unemployed or even under-employed, the calculations are more complicated and a judge may use full-time income figures even if the parent is not earning full-time pay.
The Washington State legislature has established child support schedules and a Quick Child Support Estimator that you can find on this informational webpage. Once the amount of child support is determined, the court enters an Order of Child Support.
Additional Expenses You May Be Obligated to Pay
Basic child support does not cover all expenses incurred by children. In addition to child support, parents may be ordered to pay:
- extra-curricular and after-school expenses including sports, music, dance, etc.
- daycare costs
- healthcare expenses including insurance premiums and uncovered expenses like prescription costs and co-pay obligations
- private school costs, although this is not common unless the child was previously attending the school or the parents agree.
These additional expenses are usually divided between the parents in the same percentage that they contribute to child support based upon their respective incomes.
Other financial factors to consider include:
- whether the parents should be responsible to pay post-high school educational costs
- who is allowed to claim the child for tax exemption purposes – normally the court will allocate this benefit
- whether each parent is obligated to pay their own attorneys fees and costs, or if these expenses should be reallocated
Child support is normally paid through the Washington State Child Support Registry located in Olympia, Washington. The Registry keeps a detailed record of all payments which can be useful if there is a payment dispute in the future. The court can order one parent to pay the other parent directly, but this is not common.
When Does Child Support End?
Child support terminates upon the child’s 18th birthday or graduation from high school, whichever occurs later. The child support Order should set the termination date so both parents understand the extent of their support obligation.
It is extremely important to accurately calculate the proper amount of child support from the very start. A miscalculation could cost a parent thousands of dollars over the child’s minority and beyond. With decades of experience as a child support lawyer, I can ensure your child receives the appropriate amount of child support according to Washington law.
Call Davies Law at (425) 259-2755 or complete our simple form to set up a free initial consultation. We will discuss your personal situation and create a customized plan to protect your children and your future together. We also offer virtual meetings if you prefer.