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GOURAS & AMIS P.L.L.C.

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About Child Support

 

Child support in Washington has traditionally been provided for by statute and case law. The exact amount of support was discretionary with the individual judge, although the Superior Courts usually followed an advisory schedule. The schedule, however, left many aspects of setting child support up to interpretation and argument. The legislature felt that the process of setting support should be more predictable and less subject to legal wrangling.

In the mid-1980's the state legislature enacted a mandatory support schedule. A chart and mandatory form was created for the purpose of calculating support. The basic structure of the chart was to take the net income of both the father and the mother and find this number on the horizontal axis of the chart. The number of the children and their age is found on the vertical axis. The intersection of the two points provides the presumptive child support amount. This is the amount that both parents are presumed to contribute to the child's basic support. The paying parent would then pay his proportionate share of that number.

The only major change to this schedule since the statute was enacted was a 25% reduction in the support amount overall. While this reduction was heavily advocated by the father's rights groups, the legislature simultaneously took back the automatic credit for non-residential (non-custodial) parents who spend significant amounts of time with the children. This reduction is now discretionary with the trial court.

The largest area of contention in child support calculation is the determination of each parent's gross and net income. This issue can be very difficult if the parent is self-employed, or if the parent is accused of taking money under the table. Another thorny issue is that one or both parents are either not employed when they should be, or are not working up to their level. The statute provides presumptive amounts when the income is difficult to calculate.

Additions to the basic child support amount can also be made for day care (which is usually paid proportionate to each parent's net income), for uninsured medical expenses, and other child expenses which must be specifically approved by the court. These additions can frequently approach or exceed the basic support amount.

The other major increase is in the length of support, such as for college or dependent adult children. The statute provides clear guidelines for the amount and nature of college support when it is determined to be appropriate. The issue of support for dependent adult children is often problematic and can be subject to a great deal of debate. An example of this is when the child has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but there is disagreement over whether this condition would prevent the child from support himself.

The statute also provides for reductions from the presumptive calculations under a very limited set of circumstances. These include the paying parents support of other children or in consideration of debts not voluntarily incurred (such as medical bills).

 

King and Pierce County Procedures

In a divorce or parentage (paternity) action, a temporary child support order is typically entered at the beginning of the case. Final support orders are entered at the termination of the case either by settlement or trial.

Modifications of support in King County are done on an abbreviated case schedule, usually four months after filing the request. King County modifications are usually done by written affidavits (or declarations) with the parties arguing the meaning of the written testimony in front of a judge.

In Pierce County, modifications are done on the Family Law Motions Calendar and can be brought on very short notice (as little as 14 days).

Enforcement of Support. The statute provides that most support orders will be processed through the Office of Support Enforcement through the Child Support Registry. For a paying parent with a regular pay check, support is usually taken automatically from the paying parent's employer by means of a wage assignment order. In these cases, the paying parent never handles the money. Also, support orders which were not originally set up for a wage assignment can be converted to obtain a wage assignment, if there is a history of the paying parent being late or missing payments.

Enforcement can become far more difficult if the paying parent is self-employed, or works under the table. The Office of Support Enforcement is empowered to collect under these circumstances, but as a practical matter, usually is unable to do so. The receiving parent's options include having the county prosecutor pursue civil contempt charges. The prosecutor's office usually does a very good job in collection, but because of heavy workloads, the case may not be taken up for a considerable amount of time. The receiving parents other option is to hire a private attorney to garnishee assets or pursue civil contempt charges. The receiving parent is then entitled to a judgment for attorney fees in an amount determined by the court. This is often worthless, however, as the judgment for any fees may be very difficult to collect.

 

Statute of Limitations

The legislature has extended the statute of limitations to ten years after the youngest child turns eighteen. For example, if the parties have three children ages 19, 12 and 5, support for all three children could be collected during any time over the next 23 years! (13 years after the five year old turns 18, plus another 10 years).

 


Gouras & Amis PLLC is a family law firm that practices exclusively in the area of family law. Gouras & Amis attorneys have over 25 years experience in both settling and litigating family law cases.

To schedule a consultation appointment
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Gouras & Amis PLLC
Family Law Attorneys
Emphasizing difficult Family Law cases in the greater
Seattle-Tacoma, Washington area

Creekside at Centerpoint
Building One
20415 72nd Ave. S.,
Suite 420
Kent, Washington 98032

 
Phone (253) 395-5552 Fax (253) 395-1022
e-mail:

Top 100 Lawyers for Matrimonial and Family Law.
Who's Who in American Law
2000 — 2011

American Society of Legal Advocates
Top 100 Family Law Attorney Award