Washington Child Support & Parenting Time Calculations
In Washington, the amount of child support is figured based on both parent's income. Parenting time doesn't normally figure into the formula.
The court may deviate from its strict child support guidelines on a case-by-case basis when the non-residential parent's visitation time greatly exceeds what is considered customary. Accurate parenting time numbers can directly affect your child support, whether you pay or receive.
Washington attorneys and judges often rely on parenting time estimates, even if they are incorrect, because counting parenting time is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents often rely on these estimates as well.
Using estimates means your parenting time totals are wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. Keep your parenting time fair and exact with accurate records.
To calculate parenting time, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to add up hours for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.
The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your parenting time to see if it was estimated incorrectly.
Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total parenting time, and you can see how your parenting time changes each year due to holidays and other events.
You can also track what actually happens, and show how much parenting time you've actually received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.
In any divorce, Washington family courts award custody of the children to one or both parents. Custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody. In many states, physical custody has an impact on the amount of child support, but not in Washington.
Washington sole physical custody: The children reside with and are supervised by the residential parent, while the other parent is entitled to visitations.
Washington joint physical custody: Each parent has significant periods of physical custody, which allows them frequent and continuing contact with their children. The state guidelines state that joint physical custody will not necessarily mean equal amounts of time between parents.
In Washington, the child support formula is the same for sole and joint physical custody. Washington family courts do not give automatic parenting time credit that can reduce your child support amount.
The only way parenting time can influence the amount of child support you receive or pay is when the family court deems your visitations are substantially in excess of those usually approved. The court will make modifications to your child support on a case-by-case basis.
Your best chance for accurate child support is to show the court that your parenting time will greatly exceed what is standard for your county to approve. More parenting time may mean abatement in child support.
Accurate parenting time percentages are important because Washington law allows for exceptions to be made in the child support amount if you can show you qualify for special consideration.
The law states that the court can deviate from the standard child support guidelines but doesn't specify parenting time as one of those reasons.
It is possible that if the court finds extraordinary visitation time by the non-custodial parent, it may consider an abatement of support. While this scenario is rare, at least you can present the court with accurate numbers.
Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert's net income is $4,000 per month, while Mary's net income is $2,400 per month. They have two children.
See how the child support amounts change in these examples:
- Scenario #1: Robert is the non-residential parent. According to the Washington child support formula, Robert pays $886 in child support each month to Mary.
- Scenario #2: Mary is the non-residential parent. Mary pays $532 in child support to Robert.
- Scenario #3: Robert and Mary earn the same amount, $4,000 per month, but she is designated as the residential parent. Because there is no net difference in their income, neither parent pays or receives child support.
Washington's child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for shared custody child support:
- Each parent's monthly gross income.
- The number of children who are under 18 or still in high school.
- Certain deduction amounts, such as the cost of health insurance premiums for the children or the cost of child care.
- A pre-existing child support or alimony obligation by either parent
Parenting time does not figure into the child support formula. However, you could submit your total parenting time to the court to show whether it is substantially in excess of the standard visitations in Washington.
Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.
Here are some other reasons why accurate overnight numbers help you, the other parent and your children:
- It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
- It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
- It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
- It is compliant with Washington law
Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.
To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in Washington, remember these 5 things:
- Washington figures child support amounts based on a strict income shares formula that includes numbers such as gross monthly income and health care premiums for the children.
- Washington guidelines do not mention parenting time as a valid claim on deviating from the state guidelines. Any decision to reduce child support is up to the individual family court.
- To show the court your accurate parenting time numbers, provide calculations to the hour of your actual parenting time and show how that compares to your county's parenting time guidelines.
- A Washington family court may agree to an abatement of child support due to above average parenting time that exceeds the county's customary visitation guidelines.
- Regardless of sole or joint custody, one parent will be designated the primary custodial parent while the other is the secondary custodial parent.
Use the Custody X Change software to accurately calculate your total parenting time to present to a Washington family court.