How Child Support is Determined In Washington State: Seven Steps
Determine Gross Monthly IncomeBoth Parents must provide Tax returns for the preceding two years and current pay stubs to verify their gross monthly income . Other verification may be required for income which does not appear on tax returns or pay stubs. All income and resources of each parent's household should be disclosed to the court.
Gross monthly income includes Salaries, Wages, Commissions, Deferred compensation, Overtime, Contract-related benefits; and Income from second jobs, RCW 26.19.071
Some sources of income are excluded from Gross Month Income. Even though excluded, they should be disclosed. These include Income of other adults in the household; Child support from other relationships, Gifts and prizes, Temporary assistance for needy families, Supplemental security income, disability lifeline benefits and food stamps.
Impute income if no verification of actual incomeIf a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court can impute income. The court will determine whether the parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed based upon factor's such as parent's work history, education, health and age. A court should not impute income to a parent who is gainfully employed, unless the court finds that the parent is purposely underemployed to reduce his child support obligation. Income should not be imputed for an unemployable parent. RCW 26.19.0716.
In some case, the parent is employed, but has no verification of actual earnings. In the absence of records of actual earnings, the court can impute income based on:
a) Full-time earnings at the current rate of pay b) Full-time earnings at a historical rate of pay based on employment security department data c) Full-time earnings at a past rate of pay d) Full-time earnings at minimum wage if appropriate based on parent's earning potential or e) Monthly Net Income. RCW 26.19.071
Apply deductions to determine Net Monthly income.The following expenses should be disclosed and deducted from gross monthly income to calculate net monthly income (a) Federal and state income taxes (b) Federal insurance contributions; (c) Mandatory pension plan payments; (d) Mandatory union or professional dues; (e) State industrial insurance premiums; (f) Court-ordered maintenance (g) Voluntary retirement contributions(h) business expenses and taxes for self-employed persons. RCW 26.19.071
Calculate the Basic Support Obligation.A Basic child support obligation (BSO) is the monthly child support obligation determined from the economic table. This amount is based on 1) the parent's combined monthly net income and 2) number of children. The Basic Support Obligation is calculated per child. The BSO increases when the child hits 12 years of age.
EXAMPLE: If combined Monthly Net income is $2000, BSO for 1 5 yr old Child is $427. If the child is 15, the BSO is higher $527. But If he has 2 fifteen year old children, the BSO drops to $409 per child.
The basic support obligation derived from the economic table is allocated between the parents based on each parent's proportionate share (percentage) of the combined monthly net income. RCW 26.19.080.
EXAMPLE: If the payer made 50% of the income, he would be responsible for 50% of the Basic Support Obligation. This amount is called the "Standard calculation"
Apply the 45% LimitationA parent's child support obligation may not exceed forty-five percent of their net income except for good cause shown. However, the court must consider whether it would be unjust to apply the limitation after considering the best interests of the child and the circumstances of each parent. 26.19.065
Apply the Presumptive minimum support obligationWhen a parent's monthly net income is below one hundred twenty-five percent (125%) of the federal poverty guideline, a monthly support order of fifty dollars per child will be entered unless the obligor parent establishes that it would be unjust to do so. To determine whether there is a sufficient basis to deviate below the presumptive minimum payment, the court must take into consideration the best interests of the child and the circumstances of each parent.
Apply any Applicable DeviationsThe court may deviate from the standard calculation after consideration of several factors. This include
a. Children from other relationships. The court may deviate down from standard calculation when a parent is paying child support to another child from another relationship. RCW 26.19.075
b. Residential schedule. The court may deviate down from the standard calculation if the child spends a significant amount of time with the payer parent.
c. Other Sources of income: Income of a new spouse, child support received from other relationships, gifts and prizes, Possession of wealth
d. Nonrecurring income: Court finds that a particular income included in the calculation of the support obligation is not recurring income.
e. Debt and high expenses: Extraordinary debt involuntarily incurred, Disparity in living costs of parents, special medical, educational, or psychological needs of child.
After applying these steps, The court arrives at the "Support transfer payment