Child support in Washington State is governed by the Washington State Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines are really nothing more than a set formula that takes into account three primary factors: (1) the parties' respective net incomes, (2) any work-related daycare expenses, and (3) any health insurance premiums or extraordinary medical expenses. The Guidelines also presume that a standard parenting plan is being implemented.
In Washington, a standard parenting plan is one that involves one party having primary custody and the other party having residential visitation every other weekend from Friday to Sunday, with alternating holidays and two to three weeks in the summer. If a standard parenting plan is not being implemented, then one party may be entitled to claim a "residential credit" for any additional overnights beyond the standard parenting plan. If the parties are splitting the children up, this creates a separate situation where specific split custody factors must be considered. The Washington State Child Support Guidelines also allow for a judge to consider other factors such as the income of a new spouse or support paid by one of the parties for a child that is from another relationship. But these and any other considerations are very secondary to the three primary factors detailed above.
If you have questions about child support, particularly if you have questions about the residential credit or split custody, it is best to consult with an experienced Washington divorce lawyer. Any Washington divorce attorney with the resources and experience to properly advise you should have a software program that automatically calculates child support based upon the Guidelines and the most recently updated tax tables. With some basic information, they should be able to give you a pretty good rough estimate of what is a proper presumed amount of support under the Washington State Child Support Guidelines Washington Child Support and the Parties' Income The single most important factors in the determination of child support are the incomes of the Parties. The child support calculation begins with the parties' gross income. From this gross income figure, federal income and all withholding taxes are deducted. The Washington State Guidelines also allow for other deductions such as union dues, health insurance and retirement funding, though the latter category is capped by statute.
After arriving at each party's net incomes, the Guidelines then add them together. This final combined net income figure then results in a presumed amount of total support for both parties. The Guidelines then take this presumed amount of support and divide it between the parties based on the pro-rata percentage that each combined to the total net income.
It works like this. First of all, please note that these figures are purely for illustrative purposes and ARE NOT based on the actual Washington State Guidelines. Let's say for example that mom makes $80,000 per year in net income, and dad makes $20,000 per year in net income. This gives us a total of $100,000 per year in net income. And, let's further say that the guidelines presume a monthly support figure of $1,000 for a child whose parents make $100,000 per year combined.
In this scenario, mom's contribution to the total net income is 80% and dad's is 20%. Therefore, if dad had primary custody under a standard Washington parenting plan, the mother would be obligated to pay the father 80% of presumed $1,000 monthly support figure, or $800 per month. Mom would also be responsible for 80% of any work-related day-care costs incurred by dad. Work-related Day Care Expenses Washington State's child support statutes specifically require that the non-custodial parent pay the same pro-rata percentage of work-related daycare expenses that they are required to pay for the presumed amount of support. Often, this figure is calculated directly into the child support transfer payment.
For example, in the scenario detailed above, mom is responsible for 80% of the presumed amount of child support under the Washington State Child Support Guidelines. If dad also incurred work-related daycare expenses in the amount of $1,000 per month, then mom would also be required to pay 80% of those daycare expenses. As noted above, the final transfer payment in the Order of Support often directly incorporates any daycare expenses. If it does not, then the other parent typically reimburses the daycare provider directly upon either being invoiced or upon proof of payment by the custodial parent. This latter scenario has the advantage of being flexible throughout the year, as daycare expenses often fluctuate, particularly in the summer months.
This scenario also avoids the predicament of the custodial parent receiving more than they should have when daycare costs are actually less than the amount set in the Order of Support. If the non-custodial parent overpays for daycare, they are entitled to a full reimbursement and are often awarded attorney's fees if they are forced to go to court over the issue. Health Insurance The issues of the cost of health insurance premiums and their role in the calculation of child support pursuant to the Washington State Guidelines are complicated. On the one hand, both parents are deemed to have an obligation to provide health insurance if it is available to them below certain cost. Often, however, one parent provides the health insurance for the child or children. Under this scenario, the parent paying the monthly premium will likely be entitled to some pro-rata, or proportional offset based on their relative percentage of net income, as detailed above.
In more practical terms, it works like this. Children's health insurance premiums that are not paid by an employer or a third party, together with children's health care expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance, are added together to determine if their sum exceeds five percent of the presumed amount under the guidelines. If so, the additional amount is deemed "extraordinary". Extraordinary amounts are then proportioned to the respective parents by their respective ratio of incomes, and the parent paying the medical premiums is entitled to a corresponding credit for their payments. For additional information regarding health insurance premiums and actual out-of-pocket expenses, it is important to speak with an experienced Washington divorce attorney.
Jason Newcombe is an experience divorce lawyer and a renowned Washington divorce lawyer. Leading his firm, the attorneys at Seattle Divorce Lawyer know that choosing the right divorce lawyer may be one of the most important decisions of your life. We are your Washington State divorce experts in all child custody and child support issues.