If parents share time with their children equally, does one parent still have to pay child support? In the past, many judges awarded mothers primary custody of the children, while fathers were left with limited visitation schedules and an obligation of child support. Today, this is no longer the norm. It is not unusual for parents to split parenting time with their children equally. Equal division of parenting time may also affect child support obligations.

Child Support Calculations

Child support is calculated based on the Washington State Support Schedule. This schedule takes into account each parent’s income and the number of children the parents must support. The schedule then breaks down that information into a set of guidelines for the amount of basic support needed to care for the children.

The legislature developed the Support Schedule to ensure that children are able to maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible after their parents split up. Although the money may be given to one of the parents, it belongs to the children as a protection against want.

Child Support & Equal Custody

When two people share custody equally, each parent provides support for the children in their homes by buying food and providing housing. More time with your children living in your home results in higher rent to pay for a larger house or apartment to accommodate children. Each parent spends more on groceries or utilities while their children are in their homes. As a result, parents who split custody evenly often find child support requirements to be unfair.

While parents cannot make an agreement about child support amounts without approval of the court, they can agree on how much time their children live with them. Parents can then ask the court for “deviations” from the Washington State Child Support Schedule based on equal division of time in the home of both parents.

If the parents have unequal incomes, the parent who makes more money may find that he or she must still pay child support. However, this amount will usually be much less than it would be without the deviation. Granting a deviation from the standard calculation is up to the discretion of the court and a parent who seeks one is more likely to get it if he or she is open and up front with the other party and the court about income, living conditions, and similar factors the court considers in determining obligations.

Parents Need to Work Together

In order for any agreement regarding children to work out in the long term, parents need to work together with their children’s interests in mind.  Parents must remember that their children come first, which means that each parent may have to compromise.

The attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law look forward to helping your family move on after a divorce, and can help you create a child support agreement or parenting plan that fits your family’s needs. To learn more about your options, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.