The following is a summary of Washington State child support laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Washington Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Standards for Determination of Income.

All income and resources of each parent’s household shall be disclosed and considered by the court when the court determines the child support obligation of each parent. Only the income of the parents of the children whose support is at issue shall be calculated for purposes of calculating the basic support obligation. Income and resources of any other person shall not be included in calculating the basic support obligation.

Monthly gross income shall include income from any source, including salaries; wages; commissions; deferred compensation; overtime; contract-related benefits; income from second jobs; dividends; interest; trust income; severance pay; annuities; capital gains; pension retirement benefits; workers’ compensation; unemployment benefits; spousal maintenance actually received; bonuses; social security benefits; and disability insurance benefits.

The following income and resources shall be disclosed but shall not be included in gross income: income of a new spouse or income of other adults in the household; child support received from other relationships; gifts and prizes; temporary assistance for needy families (TANF); supplemental security income; general assistance; and food stamps.

The following expenses shall be disclosed and deducted from gross monthly income to calculate net monthly income: federal and state income taxes; federal insurance contributions act deductions; mandatory pension plan payments; mandatory union or professional dues; state industrial insurance premiums; court-ordered spousal maintenance to the extent actually paid; up to $2000 per year in voluntary pension payments actually made; and normal business expenses and self-employment taxes for self-employed persons.

The court shall impute income to a parent when the parent is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed. The court shall determine whether the parent is voluntarily underemployed or voluntarily unemployed based upon that parent’s work history, education, health, and age, or any other relevant factors. A court shall not impute income to a parent who is gainfully employed on a full-time basis, unless the court finds that the parent is voluntarily underemployed and finds that the parent is purposely underemployed to reduce the parent’s child support obligation. Income shall not be imputed for an unemployable parent. Income shall not be imputed to a parent to the extent the parent is unemployed or significantly underemployed due to the parent’s efforts to comply with court-ordered reunification efforts under chapter 13.34 RCW or under a voluntary placement agreement with an agency supervising the child. In the absence of information to the contrary, a parent’s imputed income shall be based on the median income of year-round full-time workers as derived from the United States bureau of census, current populations reports, or such replacement report as published by the bureau of census.

-From RCW 26.19.071

Standards for Establishing Lower and Upper Limits on Child Support Amounts.

Neither parent’s total child support obligation may exceed 45 percent of net income except for good cause shown. Good cause includes but is not limited to possession of substantial wealth, children with day care expenses, special medical need, educational need, psychological need, and larger families.

When combined monthly net income is less than $600, a support order of not less than $25 per child per month shall be entered for each parent unless the obligor parent establishes that it would be unjust or inappropriate to do so in that particular case. The decision whether there is a sufficient basis to deviate below the presumptive minimum payment must take into consideration the best interests of the child and the circumstances of each parent. Such circumstances can include comparative hardship to the affected households, assets or liabilities, and earning capacity. A parent’s support obligation shall not reduce his or her net income below the need standard for one person established pursuant to RCW 74.04.770, except for the presumptive minimum payment of $25 per child per month or in cases where the court finds reasons for deviation. This section shall not be construed to require monthly substantiation of income.

The economic table is presumptive for combined monthly net incomes up to and including $5000. When combined monthly net income exceeds $5000, support shall not be set at an amount lower than the presumptive amount of support set for combined monthly net incomes of $5000 unless the court finds a reason to deviate below that amount. The economic table is advisory but not presumptive for combined monthly net incomes that exceed $5000. When combined monthly net income exceeds $7000, the court may set support at an advisory amount of support set for combined monthly net incomes between $5000 and $7000 or the court may exceed the advisory amount of support set for combined monthly net incomes of $7000 upon written findings of fact.

-From RCW 26.19.065

Health Insurance Coverage.

In entering or modifying a child support order, the court shall require either or both parents to provide health insurance coverage for any child named in the order if coverage that can be extended to cover the child is or becomes available to that parent through employment or is union-related; and the cost of such coverage does not exceed 25 percent of the obligated parent’s basic child support obligation.

The court shall consider the best interests of the child and have discretion to order health insurance coverage when entering or modifying a support order under this chapter if the cost of such coverage exceeds 25 percent of the obligated parent’s basic support obligation.

-From RCW 26.09.105

Additional Expenses.

Ordinary health care expenses are included in the economic table. Monthly health care expenses that exceed 5 percent of the basic support obligation shall be considered extraordinary health care expenses. Extraordinary health care expenses shall be shared by the parents in the same proportion as the basic support obligation.

Day care and special child rearing expenses, such as tuition and long distance transportation costs to and from the parents for visitation purposes, are not included in the economic table. These expenses shall be shared by the parents in the same proportion as the basic child support obligation.

-From RCW 26.19.080

Deviation from Child Support Guidelines.

Reasons for deviation from the standard calculation include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Sources of income and tax planning. The court may deviate from the standard calculation after consideration of the following:
    1. Income of a new spouse if the parent who is married to the new spouse is asking for a deviation based on any other reason. Income of a new spouse is not, by itself, a sufficient reason for deviation;
    2. Income of other adults in the household if the parent who is living with the other adult is asking for a deviation based on any other reason. Income of the other adults in the household is not, by itself, a sufficient reason for deviation;
    3. Child support actually received from other relationships;
    4. Gifts;
    5. Prizes;
    6. Possession of wealth, including but not limited to savings, investments, real estate holdings and business interests, vehicles, boats, pensions, bank accounts, insurance plans, or other assets;
    7. Extraordinary income of a child; or
    8. Tax planning considerations. A deviation for tax planning may be granted only if the child would not receive a lesser economic benefit due to the tax planning.
  2. Nonrecurring income. The court may deviate from the standard calculation based on a finding that a particular source of income included in the calculation of the basic support obligation is not a recurring source of income. Depending on the circumstances, nonrecurring income may include overtime, contract-related benefits, bonuses, or income from second jobs. Deviations for nonrecurring income shall be based on a review of the nonrecurring income received in the previous two calendar years.
  3. Debt and high expenses. The court may deviate from the standard calculation after consideration of the following expenses:
    1. Extraordinary debt not voluntarily incurred;
    2. A significant disparity in the living costs of the parents due to conditions beyond their control;
    3. Special needs of disabled children;
    4. Special medical, educational, or psychological needs of the children; or
    5. Costs incurred or anticipated to be incurred by the parents in compliance with court-ordered reunification efforts under chapter 13.34 RCW or under a voluntary placement agreement with an agency supervising the child.
  4. Residential schedule. The court may deviate from the standard calculation if the child spends a significant amount of time with the parent who is obligated to make a support transfer payment. The court may not deviate on that basis if the deviation will result in insufficient funds in the household receiving the support to meet the basic needs of the child or if the child is receiving temporary assistance for needy families. When determining the amount of the deviation, the court shall consider evidence concerning the increased expenses to a parent making support transfer payments resulting from the significant amount of time spent with that parent and shall consider the decreased expenses, if any, to the party receiving the support resulting from the significant amount of time the child spends with the parent making the support transfer payment.
  5. Children from other relationships. The court may deviate from the standard calculation when either or both of the parents before the court have children from other relationships to whom the parent owes a duty of support.
    1. The child support schedule shall be applied to the mother, father, and children of the family before the court to determine the presumptive amount of support.
    2. Children from other relationships shall not be counted in the number of children for purposes of determining the basic support obligation and the standard calculation.
    3. When considering a deviation from the standard calculation for children from other relationships, the court may consider only other children to whom the parent owes a duty of support. The court may consider court-ordered payments of child support for children from other relationships only to the extent that the support is actually paid.
    4. When the court has determined that either or both parents have children from other relationships, deviations under this section shall be based on consideration of the total circumstances of both households. All child support obligations paid, received, and owed for all children shall be disclosed and considered.

Agreement of the parties is not by itself adequate reason for any deviations from the standard calculation.

-From RCW 26.19.075

Income Withholding.

If the division of child support is providing support enforcement services under RCW 26.23.045, or if a party is applying for support enforcement services, the superior court shall include in all court orders that establish or modify a support obligation a provision that orders and directs the responsible parent to make all support payments to the Washington state support registry; unless one of the parties demonstrates, and the court finds, that there is good cause not to require immediate income withholding and that withholding should be delayed until a payment is past due; or the parties reach a written agreement that is approved by the court that provides for an alternate arrangement;

In all other cases, the court may order the responsible parent to make payments directly to the person entitled to receive the payments, to the Washington state support registry, or may order that payments be made in accordance with an alternate arrangement agreed upon by the parties.

In all cases, withholding action may be taken against wages, earnings, assets, or benefits, and liens enforced against real and personal property under the child support statutes of this or any other state, without further notice to the responsible parent, after a payment is past due.

-From RCW 26.23.050

Standards for Postsecondary Educational Support Awards.

  1. The child support schedule shall be advisory and not mandatory for postsecondary educational support.
  2. When considering whether to order support for postsecondary educational expenses, the court shall determine whether the child is in fact dependent and is relying upon the parents for the reasonable necessities of life. The court shall exercise its discretion when determining whether and for how long to award postsecondary educational support based upon consideration of factors that include but are not limited to the following: Age of the child; the child’s needs; the expectations of the parties for their children when the parents were together; the child’s prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities or disabilities; the nature of the postsecondary education sought; and the parents’ level of education, standard of living, and current and future resources. Also to be considered are the amount and type of support that the child would have been afforded if the parents had stayed together.
  3. The child must enroll in an accredited academic or vocational school, must be actively pursuing a course of study commensurate with the child’s vocational goals, and must be in good academic standing as defined by the institution. The court-ordered postsecondary educational support shall be automatically suspended during the period or periods the child fails to comply with these conditions.
  4. The child shall also make available all academic records and grades to both parents as a condition of receiving postsecondary educational support. Each parent shall have full and equal access to the postsecondary education records as provided in RCW 26.09.225.
  5. The court shall not order the payment of postsecondary educational expenses beyond the child’s twenty-third birthday, except for exceptional circumstances, such as mental, physical, or emotional disabilities.
  6. The court shall direct that either or both parents’ payments for postsecondary educational expenses be made directly to the educational institution if feasible. If direct payments are not feasible, then the court in its discretion may order that either or both parents’ payments be made directly to the child if the child does not reside with either parent. If the child resides with one of the parents the court may direct that the parent making the support transfer payments make the payments to the child or to the parent who has been receiving the support transfer payments.

-From RCW 26.19.090

 

This information has been summarized from the Washington statutes. You can find the full-text version of these and other Washington divorce statutes online here: Washington Divorce Laws.

LEARN MORE ABOUT GENERAL CHILD SUPPORT LAWS.

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