How Does The Court Decide the Child Support Amount

Who is Responsible for Child Support Amount?

A court could order one or both parents to support a child or children, in Washington. It’s the non-custodial parent who usually pays support, however. A non-custodial parent is a parent who spends less than half of the time with the child or children while the custodial parent has the most time with the child. 

The law keeps the custodial parent obligated for child support too, but in some cases, the court assumes that this parent spends enough amount of support directly on the child.

Parents can evaluate their part of support by concerning the child support schedule (also called child support economic table) presented by Washington State Legislature. This catalog depicts the basic amount of child support based on the combined income of both parents, the children’s ages and the number of children.

Along with the determination of basic support by the schedule, parents are required to cover additional expenses as well. Parents need to share medical care, health insurance, education, traveling for visitation and other costs. 

While parents can’t pay less than what the schedule states, they may pay more, however. Regardless of what is agreed between parents, a final amount will be approved only by the court. Depending on the best interest of the child and the parent’s needs, a court could modify the support payments.

Determination of Combined Income of both Parents

For the determination of support payment, the gross and net incomes of both parents matter. Gross income refers to all income from all sources like wages, salary, bonuses, and commissions from the job and any pension. It also covers the money from any profits, interest, or trust. Even the unemployed parents, may have income for child support, in the form of workers’ compensation, social security, unemployment, disability or veteran’s benefits.

The parent who tries to dodge responsibility for child support by not working will also be held accountable for a share of the combined income. A court possesses the authority to attribute income to a parent who is unemployed voluntarily or underemployed based upon that parent’s work history, health, education, and age, among other factors.

Net income can be determined by making deductions in gross income. Net income is gross income minus federal and state income taxes, FICA taxes (The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is the federal law requiring you to withhold three separate taxes from the wages you pay your employees), and court-ordered maintenance (like child support or spousal support from another case) already paid. You can also subtract some business expenses, pension, and retirement contributions and dues.  

How does Schedule Works?

Both parents need to combine net income in order to evaluate the total amount of child support due. Then, the entire money will be split between both parents exactly in the same percentage as what they individually contribute to the combined income.

For example, Parent A and Parent B have one child and their combined income is $1,000. According to the child support schedule, they need to pay a total of $220 in child support monthly. If Parent A shows 60% of the combined income, then this parent will spend60% of the total child support or $132 per month. Parent B, who secures 40% of the combined income, will contribute the remaining 40%, or $88 monthly in child support.

The lowest combined income of both parents on the schedule is $1000. If the combined income is below $1000, then a court will examine both parents’ resources and living expenses to decide a fair child support amount. The least amount of support is $50 monthly while the maximum is 45% of a parent’s net income except there is some sound basis like substantial wealth for that proportion to rise.

Modifications in the Amount of Support

The entire value given by the guidelines or the way that amount is split is not fair to a child or parent, sometimes. Before an order is in place, either parent can request to modify and adjust the payment of support. In this scenario, a court will examine a long list of factors to either decrease or increase the payment of child support. 

These factors can be examined by a court:

  • the difference in the parents’ cost of living
  • assets and income of a new spouse, domestic partner or other adult(s) in the household
  • taxes and debt
  • a disabled child’s special needs
  • child support from other relationships
  • gifts, prizes, and other wealth
  • the extraordinary income of a child
  • nonrecurring income – like a bonus or overtime pay
  • the time the child spends with each parent, and
  • children from other relationships.

Review of the Court Order

Once a child support order is issued, either parent can still request the court to modify it at any time. The party who ask for modifications must have a substantial difference in circumstances to justify an alteration in the payment of child support. After the one year of order issuing, you do not require a substantial difference in your circumstances. Instead, a court can rise or decline the payment of support if meeting the terms of the order has produced an economic hardship on either parent or on the child.

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