When two parents decide to divorce, effectively separating a single-family household into two distinct homes, the court takes measures to ensure any children involved will have their basic needs met and can continue to benefit from the same level of comfort provided by their parents when they resided under the same roof.
In the state of Washington, the question of child support, and each parent’s obligation, is a matter of formula. The courts look at several variables when determining a child support order, with each family situation taken into consideration on an individual level.
Factors that influence child support
While there is a minimum and maximum child support payment allowed by the state, the courts determine a parent’s child support obligation with four primary considerations, which are:
- The number of children
- The ages of the children
- Each parent’s income
- The family’s custody arrangement
Custodial parents meet support obligations by housing their children for more than 50% of the time, which places the financial support responsibility on the noncustodial parent.
In situations with shared custody, the parent with a higher income amount will generally pay support to the other household in order to more evenly divide the costs associated with raising the children.
Because the cost of raising a child varies across his or her lifetime, child support may not be sufficient at times to cover all related expenses. The additional cost of childcare, medical care, daycare, education and extracurricular expenses are not included in initial child support calculations.
The courts can include orders regarding these expenses and how to split them between parents in the initial divorce decree. Parents may also seek a court order at a later date to determine or re-determine parental responsibility with these expenses.