When Experience Counts
How do you figure child support? Child support in Washington is based on a support schedule, here. Generally, the support schedule works like this: you add up the disposable incomes for both spouses; look up the total amount of the child support; then the non-custodial parent pays their proportional share to the custodial parent.
I have attached a sample child support worksheet here, at page 40-45. This assumes the father makes $4500 per month gross; the mother makes $2500 per month gross. (In my practice, 90% of the time the father makes more money. Unfair, but it’s a fact of life.)
What Can I Deduct: There are usually only a few deductions the court will allow: taxes; pension plan contributions, up to a certain amount, if you have paid them consistently for the past two years; and any maintenance you pay. That’s it. You can’t deduct car payments, credit card payments, mortgages, etc. In our example, that means Obiwan has net income of $3,593.66 and Julianne has net income of $2,186.87.
The basic support obligation is $1,300 for two children. (Line 5). Obiwan pays Julianne his share (62.2%, Line 6), or $808.60. (Line 8). Julianne pays herself her share ($491.40.)
There can be other adjustments: if Obiwan pays for health insurance for the children, he will get a credit (Line 10) for the amount of the premiums for the children alone. (Not himself). If there is daycare, that goes in Line 11a. But in my experience, there are very few other consistent monthly expenses that will end up in a worksheet.
If We Have A 50/50 Parenting Plan, Is There Child Support? The answer to this is, frequently, yes. The child support schedule is based, loosely, on the theory that the non-custodial parent (Obwian) has the kids about 25% of the overnights. In theory, as the number of overnights, his expenses grow as well. Thus Obiwan would be entitled to a deviation downwards.
However – and it is a big however – there is no formula under the statute to calculate that deviation. There is a formula all family law attorneys use; but deviations downwards are always discretionary with the court. That is, the judge can decide to give Obiwan a deviation – or ignore it. Technically, to get a deviation, Obiwan has to prove what expenses he has, that go up because he has the children more overnights. This is very, very hard to do. The end result is, as a practical matter: if the parents make close to the same income, the chances are good Obiwan will get a deviation. If the incomes are a LOT different (Obiwan makes, say, $10,000 a month, while Julianne makes $2500 a month), Obiwan is unlikely to get a deviation, even if he has almost half the time.
If the parents are exactly 50/50 parents, then there is no custodial parent, and in theory, Obiwan’s support obligation to Julianne ($808.60) should be offset against Julianne’s obligation to Obiwan ($491.40), and Obiwan will still owe her the difference. ($347.50).
Can The Court Take More Than 50% Of My Net Income? Yes, under some circumstances. For example, I had had cases with 5-6 children. Dad paid almost 70% of his net income to the mother. (I had the mother.) The father took the case up on revision. The court said, essentially, you had six children; they need to be supported; you are going to pay.
If We Have An Agreement Will The Court Enforce It? Frequently, usually, yes. But an agreed child support order does not bind the court. That is, if the commissioner thinks it is too unfair, the commissioner is perfectly within their rights to refuse to sign it. There are commissioners in both King and Snohomish County that I have seen do this. Usually this is when the mother makes little income; and the father does; but the mother has agreed to little or no child support.
Some of the citations and case law are:
A support obligation in excess of 50% of the obligor’s net income may be ordered under appropriate circumstances.
In re Marriage of Glass, 67 Wn. App. 378, 835 P.2d 1054 (1992)
Application of the minimum need standard (WAC 388-478-002, but the number changes from time to time) and $25 minimum support obligation under RCW 26.19.065(2) are mandatory unless the court deviates for a reason specified in RCW 26.19.075 and states its reasons in its findings and conclusions.
State ex rel. Stout v. Stout, 89 Wn. App. 118, 123, 948 P.2d 851 (1997);
In re Marriage of Casey, 88 Wn. App. 662, 665, 967 P.2d 982 (1997);
“Child support may be included in the separation contract and shall be reviewed in the subsequent proceeding for compliance with RCW 26.19.020. Under this statute, separation agreement provisions concerning child support are not binding on the court.” (McCausland)
In re Marriage of McCausland, 129 Wn. App. 390, 410, 118 P.3d 944 (2005); reversed on other grounds, 159 Wn.2d 607, 152 P.3d 1013 (2007);
Parents cannot agree to prospectively waive child support. This includes agreements to not impute any income to the recipient. (Goodell). Any such agreements are against public policy and unenforceable, even if contained in a final order agreed upon by the parties and not appealed (Pippens).
In re Marriage of Goodell, 130 Wn. App. 381, 390, 122 P.3d 929 (2005);
Hammack v. Hammack, 114 Wn. App. 805, 808, 60 P.3d 663 (2003);
“Except as specifically excluded in subsection (4) of this section, 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.”
Past income is not controlling when determining current income.
In re Marriage of Payne, 82 Wn. App. 147, 916 P.2d 968 (1996)