Sometimes in life, we are fortunate enough to receive a little extra money. Whether it is a bonus at work, a settlement in a car accident case, or a large tax return, these payments can help parents pay off bills or purchase a long-coveted item.
For parents who have child support obligations, these lump sums may not go as far as they had hoped. Regular bonuses may be included in income for purposes of calculating the child support obligation. Plus, for parents who have fallen behind on paying child support, both state and federal laws allow employers or the government to withhold these funds and pay them directly to the other parent.
Bonuses from Employment
When the court looks at a parent’s income for purposes of calculating child support, many more types of income other than simply salary or wages are included under Washington law. Extra money from regular bonuses is specifically included in the child support statute, and will be considered part of that parent’s income. So, if a parent earns $50,000 a year, but receives $5,000 each year in bonuses, the parent’s child support obligations would be based on an income of $55,000 per year.
In some cases, bonuses are irregular or unpredictable. If a parent received a signing bonus for a new job, but there are no additional bonuses planned, that income might not be included in the child support calculations.
If one parent receives a settlement or jury verdict in his or her favor, money received can also be used for child support. For example, suppose a father is in a car accident. In the ensuing lawsuit, he wins $50,000 in damages for his medical bills, expenses, and lost wages, and $50,000 in damages for his pain and suffering. The $50,000 for his actual damages (medical bills and expenses) cannot be used to pay child support, because it is reimbursement for costs already expended. The second $50,000 (for pain and suffering) can be garnished by the state if he owes back child support.
Garnishments of Other Payments
Nearly any kind of income must be reported during child support negotiations, and most can be garnished by the state or federal government to pay back child support payments. This includes tax returns, lottery winnings, workers’ compensation or unemployment benefits, retirement or social security income, and income from trusts, investments, and annuities.
Fairly and accurately dividing income, expenses, and support obligations like these often requires the help of a skilled Washington family law attorney. The attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law have many techniques at their disposal to help divorcing couples decide on a fair and equitable support agreement, and achieve great successes using mediation, collaboration, and other dispute resolution methods.
For help with your situation, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.