Parents have a fundamental legal obligation to financially support their children. In the state of Washington, child support refers to monetary payments made by a non-primary parent to the other parent or person who primarily takes care of the children. The court’s primary motive is to ensure that the children’s essential needs are adequately met. This includes provisions for clothing, food, housing, and essential services like daycare and medical care.
One of the two parents is legally required to pay child support even if the parents split custody 50 /50, and even if the person required to pay has never seen the child. The only exception to this rule is if parental rights have been terminated.
In Washington, there are several ways a parent may request child support. One approach involves one or more parent seeking approval from a judge in a civil case, often related to divorce or other family law proceedings. A more common route is to apply through the Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Child Support (DCS).
Child support is established based on the needs of the child and the parent’s reasonable ability to pay. To determine the appropriate child support amount, Washington uses support guidelines established by the legislature, most recently amended in 2010. The calculation is based on net income, the income remaining after deductions for taxes and other legally mandated expenses. There are limited deductions allowed on the child support worksheets, such as federal income tax or Social Security and Medicare contributions.
The process of calculating child support involves a complex formula, with factors such as each parent’s income, daycare expenses, the cost of medical insurance, any social security benefits received by the child, and the living arrangements of the children. These costs are rolled into what is called a “transfer payment.” The transfer payment is usually due at the beginning of each month.
A court may deviate from the presumptive transfer payment for a number of reasons. The most common reason is that the child spends a significant amount of time with the person making the transfer payment.
Establishing child support is crucial to the well-being of children and is a significant aspect of family law. By adhering to established guidelines and considering the best interests of the children, the state aims to provide a fair and adequate support system for families in need.