How much child support will I receive?

The amount of child support you will receive is based on the Washington State Child Support Schedule. The Schedule is a table the courts use to identify the total amount of child support for which both parents are responsible. This is the amount the court deems necessary to support the child each month.

The court then takes that number and divides it between the parents in proportion to each parent’s contribution to the combined monthly net income.

Confused? Let’s illustrate how this works with an example.

The Schedule contains three important columns:

  • Combined monthly net income
  • Monthly basic support obligation per child age 0-11
  • Monthly basic support obligation per child age 12-18

Let’s say the parents’ combined monthly net income (and we’ll go over how to calculate that below) is $1,000. The parents have one child together, who is five years old. In this case, the monthly basic support obligation per child for a one-child family is $220.

But that doesn’t mean the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent $220 a month in child support. The court will divide the $220 between the parents, in proportion to how much each parent contributes to the combined monthly net income. If Parent A contributes 65 percent of the $1,000 combined income, and Parent B contributes 35 percent, then Parent A will be responsible for $650 in child support and Parent B will be responsible for $350 in child support.

Do both parents pay child support?

Technically, both parents are responsible for their portion of the basic child support obligation. But the court generally expects that the custodial parent will directly contribute his or her share via day-to-day spending to support the child.

The non-custodial parent will generally have to pay his or her portion of the basic child support obligation each month.

How do I calculate combined monthly net income?

Combined monthly net income is essentially each parent’s gross income minus certain expenses. Each parent’s gross income is calculated by combining income from things like:

  • Salary and wages
  • Commissions
  • Overtime pay
  • Dividends
  • Interest
  • Severance pay
  • Annuities
  • Capital gains
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Social Security benefits
  • Disability benefits

(Income sources like child support from other relationships, income of a new spouse, and certain types of government assistance are not included in gross monthly income calculations.)

Next, designated expenses are deducted from each parent’s gross income to arrive at their net income. These expenses include:

  • Income taxes
  • Mandatory pension plan payments
  • Mandatory union and professional dues
  • Normal business expenses and self-employment taxes (if self-employed)

Finally, both parents’ net incomes are combined to arrive at the combined monthly net income amount that you will use to identify the basic child support obligation on the Schedule.

For a complete list of income sources and expenses used to calculate net monthly income, see RCW 26.19.071.

How long does child support last?

Child support typically lasts until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. However, there are a few exceptions, such as if the child is disabled and has special needs, or if the child is still in high school at age 19. In many cases, the court may also order postsecondary support (college support); in deciding whether to grant postsecondary support, the court will need to determine if the child is “dependent and is relying upon the parents for reasonable necessities of life,” as outlined in RCW § 26.19.090.  The court will also determine of the parents have the ability to contribute to college expenses. 

What should I do if I am not receiving enough child support?

If the other parent is not paying child support, we can help you recover back payments through wage garnishments and other means. We can also help you modify your current child support order if circumstantial changes warrant it. If you believe you deserve more child support than you are currently receiving, you may be able to modify your child support order but will need to meet certain criteria outlined in RCW 26.09.170, such as:

  • One of the parents or the child has experienced a substantial change in circumstances. This includes losing a job, an illness, etc.
  • It has been at least two years since your child support order was finalized, or since you last modified your child support order, and
    • Your income or the other parent’s income changed; or
    • The Child Support Schedule has changed.
  • It has been at least a year since your child support order was finalized and your child turned 12 years old or you can prove the current order creates a severe financial hardship for the parent or the child.

How do I know if I am receiving the right amount of child support?

If you are unsure if you are receiving adequate child support, work with a lawyer at David Crouse & Associates, PLLC to review your current order and whether it adheres to Washington law. We can help you file for a modification or enforce your current order. Our lawyers can also help if you are in an active divorce and/or child support case, or if you are planning to file a petition for divorce and/or child support. Call us today at 509-624-1380 to set up a consultation.

David J. Crouse & Associates