How to Collect Child Support in Washington State & How it’s Determined

 In Child Support
How to Collect Child Support in Washington State & How it’s Determined

Divorce is a difficult emotional experience, and not a time for added stress. When you have to figure out how to arrange child support payments, or worse, fight for what you deserve, it can become overwhelming for anyone. Whatever the details are of your scenario, here is a general overview of what needs to happen to make sure child support is set for you and your children.

Establish Fatherhood

In most cases, this is not a challenge, but in instances where a couple was unmarried at the time a child was born, it may need to be legally established who the father is to obtain financial support.

It is not always the case that the father is knowingly denying his parental duties. In instances where the father is genuinely unsure as to whether or not they are the child’s biological parent, it can be arranged to have genetic testing performed. The good news is the test is easy, accurate, and either parent can ask for it to be performed in a contested paternity case.

Establishing a Child Support Order

Once the father has been fully established in the eyes of the law, a child support order is the next step. Every state has child support guidelines… Washington is no different. These guidelines are set up to calculate the financial support a parent is supposed to contribute. The Washington child support office can explain how the amount of support is determined.

How is Child Support Determined?

Individual states have different methods for determining child support amounts. What is considered “income” and what “deductions” are taken from that income prior to support being calculated can vary greatly from one jurisdiction to the next. Generally speaking, there are three basic formulas currently in use:

1. Income Shares Model

Thirty-eight states, Guam and the Virgin Islands use the “Income Shares Model.” This approach seeks to insure that the child or children receive the same amount of income they would get if their parents were still together and pooling their resources. Accordingly, the court arrives at a child support amount based on the individual incomes of both the custodial and noncustodial parent, taking into account an economic table that determines the expected cost of child rearing.

2. Percentage of Income Model

The “Percentage of Income Model” bases child support only on the noncustodial parent’s income. A minority of states, including Alaska and Texas, use this model. There are two variations on this model: the “Flat Percentage Model” and the “Varying Percentage Model.” In states using the “Flat Percentage Model,” the percentage of income marked for support stays the same whether the noncustodial parent’s income changes or not. The “Varying Percentage Model” results in an adjustment of the percentage of the income as a person’s income increases or decreases.

3. The Melson Formula

The third basic child support calculation is known as the “The Melson Formula,” which is a more complex variation on the Income Shares Model that incorporates a number of public policy judgments with an eye on making sure the parents’ basic necessities are met as well as their child’s. For example, under the “Melson Formula” there is actually a standard of living adjustment for the child. This model is used in just three states: Montana, Delaware and Hawaii.

Enforcing a Child Support Order

If child support is still not fully agreed upon by both sides, the parent who has custody will need to take steps to enforce the order. The easiest way to ensure child support is successfully collected is to withhold the payment from the other parent’s paycheck. In most cases, the employer must withhold the money established in a child support order.

Other methods for enforcing child support payments may include setting liens on a property, withholding tax refunds, and intercepting federal payments. Other actions not directly related to retrieving money might include suspending a driver’s license or work-related licenses. You can also report child support debts to credit bureaus. If there is any confusion, the child support office can help with handling this process.

If the other parent’s whereabouts are uncertain, the child support office can work with state agencies to track them down. If your ex is threatening to flee the country, their passport can be revoked.

An Attorney on Your Side in Southwest Washington

If your ex-spouse is not cooperative in providing the child support they are legally bound to, the attorneys at Spencer & Sundstrom can work with you to make sure you understand your rights and the best course of action for you to take. We are child support specialists in the state of Washington, contact us today!

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