The Many Faces of Child Support Calculation

The State of Washington Courts use many standard forms which are required when filing for a Legal Action.  This is most evident when dealing with a Divorce/Dissolution, Child Custody/Paternity Action, or a Third Party Custody Case.    In most dissolutions cases with children you must file about 12 legal forms to address the needs to bring the case.  These forms include, a Summons, a Petition for Dissolution, a Parenting Plan, which sets forth whom will be the Custodial parent and what visitation is being proposed for the other parent.  Also included would be a Stat Sheet, a Confidential Information Sheet, a Case Cover sheet, and an affidavit of service of all of the information.   These documents and often many more the courts will require the parties to have when divorcing. 

                A Motion is usually filed which sets forth what is being requested.  These can include Restraining Orders, division of debts, a Temporary Parenting Plan, requesting a Guardian ad Litem is appointed in a contested custody case, use of property pending finalization, or moving one party out of the home.  Declarations are needed to give the Court evidence on why it should grant you the relief that you are requesting. This is your only time and your only way to testify under penalty of perjury to the court for this temporary hearing.  These Declarations can and should be complete with attached exhibits supporting your position.  In many cases there are 4-7 Declarations done.  This is especially true in contested custody, or when there are allegations of Domestic Violence.  Also included in the initial documents is a Child Support Order proposed, as well as Child Support Worksheets. 

                It is important to remember that the most recent court rules require you to file originals with the court, together with a working copy for the Judge, and that person who is not the filing party serve all documents upon the other side at least 12 days before the hearing. You will need to file with the Court and the Judge working copies of the proof, or Return of Service, prior to the hearing to show you have done so.

                I am now going to outline just some of the issues surrounding the Child Support Work Sheets.  The Work Sheets work mainly with the Net Income of the parties.  In the event one of the parties is not working and they are medically able to work then income will be imputed to them by the Court.  This is due to the fact that both parents are legally responsible for the support of their children.  The State of Washington has a standard setting of imputed income averaged by age of the person and if they are male or female.  What can also be argued to the Court is the person’s previous wage.  For instance, if they have only been making minimum wage, then that wage, not a higher imputed wage is used.  Utilizing the wage times 40 hours a week, times 4.3 weeks, which is the average number of weeks due to 4 months of the year having five weeks.

                There are many different deductions that can be taken out of the Gross wages. This number is known as the before taxes income.  These include State and Federal Taxes.  The parties can use the Federal Tax tables,  1040 wage calculations, the previous years of Taxes deducted or the amount listed on the paystubs provided to the Court.  A party can also argue that too much tax is taken in order to create a Tax Return Check, and recalculate based upon claimed deductions.  This is an area of much dispute and manipulation by the parties and as such the Court requires recent paystubs and two years tax returns from the parties, together with a Financial Declaration or budget from each.

                There are many other deductions from Gross Income, such as Pension Plan payments, State Industrial Insurance, Union dues, Spousal maintenance paid, Normal business expenses.  The Court uses the combined monthly income of the parties and the age of the children to determine what child Support is needed, then divides it according to the percentage of the combine income that each party makes in the relationship based upon the Economic Table issued by the State.  The percentages of the total is very important as it will be used also to divide the amount of daycare incurred by the parties, the health Insurance expense for the children only, transportation expense, and sometimes the proportionate shares of payment of the Guardian ad Litem in the case, and uninsured health care.  The amount of Child Support paid and the net incomes together with the Need, Financial Declarations, length of marriage are used to determine if Spousal Maintenance is paid and if so how much.  That is another topic altogether.

                There are a number of what are called “deviations” from the Standard calculation of child support that the court can consider if it does not take away from the income needed to raise the child.  The deviations requested can be granted or denied on a case by case basis.  Some of the derivations include the amount of time the child spend s in the non-custodial parent’s home.  If for instance the noncustodial parent has the child 1/3 of the time, and therefore provides housing, food, power etc. for that child the court can use that to say that credit against the child support may be given.  This would deal with a complicated formula where we have over nights assigned to each parent, with basically child support going both ways during the time each parent has the child, to come up with a net number or transfer taking all that into consideration, together with the disparity of the net incomes of the parties.  There are a number of these deviations including support of other children of other relationships, split custody arraignments, extraordinary wealth etc.  Each case is different and without an advocate on your side they will not be given or argued for you if you in fact do not request it and give evidence in the proper format to the court to support it.

                What is vital to each case is that what you submit to the Court cannot be undone, redone or later changed.  Prevailing on your case could depend upon a single sentence in your declaration, how you drafted your documents, what evidence you gave to support it etc.  Once in the Court file it basically cannot be erased and if you attempt to give a new or different position to the Court  you must understand first that it can be flatly denied, and second you will at a minimum have to explain why the Court  should entertain such changes.  Keep in mind that child support in the amount of $500 for 18 years is $108,000.  Child Support of $400 for 18 years is $86,000.  As you can see these small changes can make a huge impact upon your future and that of your family.  Having an expert who has done this work every day for almost 20 years will make a major difference just in child support alone, which can and often does turn into Post Secondary Educational support until the child reaches the age of 23 years.