Child support orders can be reviewed and updated every three years or sooner if a parent has experienced a loss in income due to termination of employment or incarceration. 

Parents must continue their child support payments up until the child turns 18, as noted in the child support agreement. It’s required by law. 

If you and your ex-spouse already have terms laid out for your child’s support plan, there are some things you need to know. We’ll discuss everything you need to understand about writing your own child support agreement – and how to go about finding a family law firm in Spokane, Washington. 

Writing Your Own Child Support Agreement

A child support agreement is proposed using the income shares model in most states. The State of Washington’s Division of Child Support (DCS) determines the child support payments by calculating each parent’s net income, which is gross income minus state and federal deductions.   

DCS is a branch of the State’s Department of Social Health and Services agency. They serve those in a custody dispute by facilitating the following services:

  • Support Orders
  • Certify Paternity
  • Collect Support Payments
  • Enforce Medical Support
  • Work with Other States on Parents’ Behalf

Washington defines child support as money given by the non-custodial parent to the parent with legal and full-time custody of the child or children to assist in their well-being. 

The money goes towards necessities such as housing, food, clothing, daycare and school expenses, and medical care for the child. 

When writing a child support agreement, you must fill out and submit an application, speak with a family law attorney, and present your agreed-upon support payment amount to a judge in court. 

The judge must agree to the terms before he or she can approve the amount. The judge has to make sure the amount is fair for the child, so they’re well provided for now and in the future. 

Both parents must follow a set of regulations when creating their own child support agreement, including:

  1. Each parent knows their own rights.
  2. Each parent is aware of the guidelines of child support payments.
  3. Parents can’t pressure one another or force the other into support order modification.
  4. Neither parent receives government assistance.
  5. Both parents have to agree that the amount is in the best interest of their child.

After you’re finished writing the agreement, both parents need to sign the document acknowledging they both adhere to the changes made. If no attorney is present or working on the case, the agreement will need to be notarized. 

Child Support Agreement Guidelines of Washington State

Before petitioning the court for child support – or a revision to your current agreement – both parents must be in agreement to approve the order in all civil law cases, such as divorce. 

Your case will begin once you’ve submitted your application to DCS. They will base the support amount on your child’s reasonable needs, as well as the non-custodial parent’s reasonable ability to pay. 

We mentioned before that the payments will be confirmed by the non-custodial parent’s net income (gross income – taxes/deductions). There are a few deductions that are permitted when determining the amount, such as:

  1. Federal Income Tax. This is the tax that’s taken out of an individual’s annual earnings. How much tax is taken is determined by your taxable income bracket. 
  2. Social Security & Medicare. Employers are required to take a portion of your wages to fund social security and Medicare, which are known as the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes.
  3. Labor & Industries (L&I) Insurance. Washington-based insurance that employees pay into for medical care when experiencing a work-related injury/illnesses and can’t work because of it.
  4. Mandatory Unions. Paying for union dues. The State currently allows employers and labor unions to negotiate fees for union memberships.
  5. Mandatory Pension Plans. Public companies and their employee’s help fund mandatory pension plans. The money pool helps to pay for members’ retirement benefits.   

When determining an amount for your child, a Washington judge will consider the parents’ income, cost of school, medical insurance, social security benefits received by the child, and the living arrangement. 

Guidelines can be reviewed in the Washington Revised Code: Chapter 26.19

If a parent feels the amount owed is unjust, he or she does have the right to petition the court to increase or decrease the child support order. If both parents reach a decision on their own, then the judge will have to review the agreement and integrate the amount into the parents’ divorce decree as long as it’s still a fair amount for the child.  

How Is Child Support Enforced?

A Washington child support order typically requires that money owed be automatically withdrawn from the paycheck of the non-custodial parent. The order requires the employer of the non-custodial parent to withhold the amount from the paying parent’s wages and is deducted like taxes, Medicare, and social security are every pay period. 

A parent on worker’s compensation and unemployment will undergo the same deduction process as working parents. 

What if my ex-spouse falls behind on child support payment or stops paying altogether?

If your ex falls behind or terminates payments on child support, DCS will be forced to act by any of the following measures:

  • File a lien on a house or car
  • Seize property
    • personal
    • contents of a safety deposit box (stocks, bonds, valuables, car title, etc.)
  • Suspend drivers license
  • Deny passport renewal
  • Alert credit bureaus
  • Seize tax returns

How to Get the Process Going

When a divorce is imminent and a child is involved, parents can plan the terms of a child support agreement outside of court, or allow a judge to make the child support agreement terms and decision for them. 

Remember that a judge’s final verdict will be based on the amount that will give the child the best quality of life, within a reasonable amount for the non-custodial parent to pay. 

If you’re living in the Spokane, WA area and need an attorney to represent you in a child support case, contact us today to learn more about our child support services