If your divorce involves children, you will need to deal with the issue of child support. Child support is a court order requiring one parent to pay the other post-divorce to help cover childcare costs. The courts order child support because they believe that a child should enjoy the same standard of living that he or she had during the marriage. Find out what is considered income for child support calculations to gain a better understanding of what you might have to pay – or be eligible to receive – in child support after your divorce.
Like most states, Washington has its own child support schedule and worksheets to determine an appropriate amount in child support for divorcing parents. The schedule was created with the goal of providing enough money to cover a child’s basic, recurring expenses – including food and housing. Typically, the parent that does not have primary custody of the child is who pays child support, as it is presumed that the custodial parent spends money directly on the child.
In general, the courts look at the parents’ combined income, the number of children and how old the children are to determine a basic support amount. Then, the courts consider any additional expenses needed. This will result in a final child support amount that serves the needs and best interests of the child. The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services offers an online child support calculator that parents can use to estimate child support payments.
During a divorce, both parties must submit financial disclosure forms. They must disclose all income and financial resources of their household to the courts. However, only the income of the parents of the child whose support is being decided will be included in the basic support obligation. The following are earnings that are considered income for child support purposes in Washington, taken directly from the Revised Code of Washington Section 26.19.071:
Sources of income that are not included when deciding child support in Washington (but that still must be disclosed to the courts) include the income of a new spouse or domestic partner, the income of anyone else in the household, child support received from other relationships, gifts and prizes, assistance given to needy families on a temporary basis, disability or age assistance benefits, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, and assistance benefits for pregnant women.
To use Washington’s child support schedule for your family, you will need to calculate both the gross income and the net income of each parent. Gross income is everything that qualifies as income added together, before taxes. Net income subtracts taxes, costs and expenses from the gross income. You should subtract federal and state income taxes, FICA deductions, mandatory pension plan payments, mandatory union dues, state industrial insurance premiums, court-ordered maintenance, and certain business expenses to calculate net income.
Child support calculations are not easy. Determining a reasonable amount in child support is a complicated matter that requires a great deal of math and a firm understanding of Washington’s child support laws. While the online calculator can help give you an idea of what to expect, the only way to get an accurate estimate of child support is by working with an attorney. A child support lawyer will know everything there is to know about this aspect of a divorce case and can help you calculate this payment.