Washington Child Support Guidelines

A parent has a legal duty to help support his/her children. In the state of Washington, child support is money paid by a parent to a person taking care of the children (usually, the other parent) to assist with support. The court’s main concern in setting child support is to make sure that your children have enough money to meet their needs. Support is meant for clothes and food, to give the children a place to live (rent/mortgage and utilities) and have decent daycare and medical care.

How to Request Child Support in Washington

There are several ways a parent can request child support in Washington. One way is for both parents to agree and ask a judge to approve a support order in a civil case such as a divorce or other family law proceedings. However, the majority of cases start by completing an application and submitting it to the Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Child Support (DCS).

What Can DCS Do?

  • Get a child support order for your children
  • Establish paternity
  • Collect current and back child support
  • Enforce medical support
  • Modify your child support order
  • Work with other states to collect support on your behalf.

How Child Support is Calculated in Washington

Support is based upon the reasonable needs of the child and upon the reasonable ability of the parent to pay. The court determines child support amounts using a set of support guidelines created by the Washington legislature. A parent's child support obligation is set based upon his/her net income. “Net income” is the income left after you take out (deduct) amounts that you must pay for taxes and other expenses that are required by law. There are very few deductions that you are allowed to take on the child support worksheets. Some deductions include:

• federal income tax
• Social Security and Medicare
• state industrial insurance (L&I)
• mandatory union dues
• mandatory pension contributions (in certain circumstances).

A judge will calculate the child support formula using a somewhat complicated formula. The most significant factors are each parent's income, daycare expenses, the cost of medical insurance, any social security benefits the child may be receiving and the living arrangements of the children.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Washington's child support laws. See also Child Custody, Child Support Modifications, and Child Support Enforcement.

Code Section Child Support Schedule Chapter 26.19 RCW et. seq.
Who is Responsible? Both Parents
How Support is Calculated? Washington State Child Support Schedule, See Child Support Calculator for an estimate
Factors

The support amount is based on the income of both parents and the average amount that intact families spend on their children.

What is Included in a Support Order? Monetary support (Food, clothing, & shelter), health insurance, basic education expenses. Also might include child care expenses, extraordinary medical expenses, visitation travel costs, and extracurricular activities.
How Long Must a Parent Pay Child Support? Until the child reaches the age of 18 or until the child graduates from high school (as long as
that is before the child is 19
Local Child Support Offices

DCS, 800-442-KIDS (800-442-5437)

Child Support Forms Forms
Can a Support Order be Changed?

Yes. Either party can petition the court to modify the order if circumstances have changed. Examples of changed circumstances include:

  • You are currently in jail.
  • You have become permanently disabled.
  • You are currently getting public assistance (such as SSI or TANF).
  • You have new children you must support.
  • You have lost your job and you cannot find work at the same wage.

Because Washington child support laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult a family law attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.