As you navigate the ending of your marriage, you will find yourself faced with many questions about your future. If you have children, there are additional factors that you will need to address, such as where your children will live, with whom, and for what duration. Also, how will each parent financially support the children, and how will this arrangement be enforced? As you deal with your impending separation, it can be useful to take a look at how Washington state determines child support arrangements and what you can expect from the process.
Putting Your Child’s Needs First
Like most states, Washington believes that children of divorcing parents should be supported as much as possible so that they can enjoy a continued sense of stability and safety in their lives. Usually, a judge will look at which parent is assuming the role of the custodial parent—meaning the child will spend more than half of their time under the care of this parent—and compel the non-custodial parent to make monthly payments to the custodial parent. These payments are intended to assist with the medical, educational, nutritional, recreational, and other costs necessary for caring for the child.
Calculating the Amount of Support
There are several factors that the court considers when arriving on the exact amount of child support. A judge will examine the income of both parents, as well as any additional financial assets they may have. This means that even an unemployed parent may still be required to pay child support, as there may be social security or disability benefits that can be used. In some cases, especially those where a parent may try to avoid financial responsibility by consciously remaining unemployed, the judge may choose to impute income to this individual by assessing their true economic worth based on other factors, such as employment history, education, health, and age.
When a child support schedule is determined, there is always the possibility that circumstances may change and the non-custodial parent will no longer be able to afford to make payments. The sudden loss of a job or a serious injury can make it impossible for the parent to uphold their end of the agreement. In these instances, you have the right to petition the court to seek a modification to the existing child support order. A divorce and family law attorney can help you make this request so that the judge can consider it and (hopefully) approve it.