Child support in Washington State is calculated using the
Washington State Child Support Schedule (WSCSS) to determine how much child support must be paid to a custodial parent
each month. This schedule works a lot like an income tax table. It takes
the income level of each parent into account in order to calculate a support
amount that meets the needs of the child(ren). The schedule also exists
to make sure that parents throughout the state either receive or pay similar
amounts of support.
Child support obligations are based on income
To determine how much a parent must pay in support, that parent’s
gross income (the total amount of income before any deductions) must first be determined.
The Washington State Child Support Schedule explains what should be included
in the gross income. The support obligation is then calculated based on
net income, which is gross income minus tax deductions and other expenses.
The following can be deducted from gross income to determine net income:
- Federal income tax
- Mandatory union due
- State industrial insurance
- Social Security and Medicare
- Mandatory pension contributions
- Voluntary pension contributions (in some situations)
What if the parent is unemployed or underemployed?
Alternatively, the court can impute income to an individual – in
other words, decide on an income for them – which is then used to
determine the support obligation. Courts impute income when they decide
that a person is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. The court imputes
income based on the following information in this order:
- Full-time earnings at current rate of pay
- Full-time earnings at historical rate of pay
- Full-time earnings at a part rate of pay (where information is irregular
- Full-time earnings at minimum wage
If none of the above information is available, the court will use the median
income for a person of the same age and gender – which could end
up being more than the person actually makes.
What if the parent can’t pay?
If a parent cannot afford to pay the amount determined using the table,
the court can lower the basic obligation. For example, an obligation may
be decreased if it would put that parent below federal poverty guidelines,
or if the amount of support would exceed 45 percent of that parent’s
The court can also deviate from the standard and raise or lower the obligation
for a variety of other reasons – for example, if the child has special
needs or if a parent also has other children to support.
What can I do if I have more questions?
Because there are so many factors that the courts must consider,
there is no typical child support amount in Washington. However, the Washington State Legislature does have a
child support economic table that can help you estimate what a parent’s obligation may be. We
also encourage you to
contact a Washington family law attorney at McKinley Irvin to talk about your specific case.