It is important to know what responsibilities you might have with regards to child support in the state of Washington. Child support calculations and determinations can be complex, and you may need information or guidance for the process.

Washington’s Economic Services Administration (ESA) Division of Child Support (DCS) can inform you of what your child support responsibilities may be. The DCS can also provide you with important information if you need child support.

Washington Family Law: Who is Required to Pay Child Support?

Generally speaking, the parent that the child lives with is the one who is owed child support by the other parent. Thus, child support amounts are often tied into the overall child custody arrangement. If the child spends equal amounts of time living with each parent, the court will take that into account and may reduce your child support amount.

How is Child Support Calculated in Washington?

Washington child support calculations require an overview and analysis of many different factors. These factors involve a mixture of the child’s needs, as well as the capabilities of the parents. Some of the factors involved in Washington child support calculations can include:

  • Whether the child has any special needs or considerations;
  • The number of children involved in the custody arrangement;
  • Educational and academic costs and expenses;
  • Travel and commute expenses;
  • Income level of each parent;
  • History of child support payments between the parties; and/or
  • Various other types of factors.

Washington Family Law: How Can I Petition for a Child Support Order?

To petition for child support, you can either go through the court system or ask for help from DCS. In order to move your case along, you should be prepared to provide the most recent address of the other parent, their social security number, their current employer and pay rate, and any other pertinent financial information.

Be prepared for the process to take longer if you do not know information like the other parents’ current address or employer. If possible, be sure to include a photo, any distinguishing markers like tattoos, scars, etc. then be sure to include it in your petition.

Washington Family Law: What If I Do Not Want to Pay Child Support?

If child support is not paid, DCS can garnish the non-paying parent’s wages directly. It can also take the support from other forms of income, such as unemployment, Social Security disability, or retirement benefits.

Funds can also be taken from the parent’s bank account, tax refund or their property might be sold. A non-paying parent also risks losing their professional or driver’s license or being found in contempt of court and sent to jail.

Washington Family Law: How does Wage Garnishment Work?

Wage garnishment may be ordered by the court if the paying parent has missed their child support payments. Under a garnishment order, the court orders the paying parent’s employer to take and set aside a portion of the person’s paycheck, to be used for the child support payments.

The employer can usually either transfer the payments directly to the court, or they may transfer it to a third party agency whose function is to manage such child support funds.

Garnishment of wages is common in cases where there have been several missed payment and the arrears (missed back payments) are starting to build up. Wage garnishment helps ensure that the payments will be met, as the monetary amounts are taken directly from the person’s wages. This helps to prevent the parent from using that money for purposes other than child support.

Washington Family Law: Can the Other Parent Stop Visitation If I Do Not Pay?

Nonpayment does not give the custodial parent the right to prohibit visitation. Thus, the custodial parent cannot stop the other parent from visiting the child, even if the parent that owes child support has not paid or is behind on payments.

If you are owed visitation and the other parent is interfering, you may have the right to go to court to have visitation enforced. Alternatively, it may be necessary to file for an amended or updated visitation order if needed.

Washington Family Law: How Can I Avoid Paying Child Support?

If you believe you should not be paying child support, you can legally have it terminated. You should never decide on your own to just stop payments. Doing so can be risky and lead to serious consequences.

While child support does not end on its own in Washington until the child turns 18, graduates high school, or gets married, you can always agree with the other parent to end child support and petition the court to end child support. Also, if you question whether you are the father, you have the right to ask for a paternity test in court to show that you are not the father.

Where Can I Find the Right Family Lawyer?

You should reach out to a Washington child support lawyer if you are facing complications with your child support order. Having a lawyer represent you in child support proceedings can be immensely helpful. Your attorney can provide advice and legal guidance as your case passes through the court system.