Washington Child Support Laws and Guidelines

The laws governing child support in Washington state are different from that of other states. WA child support law sets how much the child maintenance should be, and the duration of such payments, plus it seeks to guide parents in exceptional cases such as deviation, support for disabled children, and retroactive support.

As you may already know, child support (or child maintenance) is a continuous monetary payment made by a spouse to another spouse, guardian, caregiver,  or the state for the upkeep of children after a divorce or separation.

The person who is required to pay child support is referred to as the “obligor,” whereas the person who is eligible to receive child maintenance is referred to as the “obligee.”

What is WA Child Support Laws?

In Washington, the obligee is typically always the person who has primary custody of the child, which means the person who lives with the child, pays the majority of the living expenses, and has primary custody of the child.

The obligor is typically always the spouse who doesn’t have primary custody of the children and may or may not have custody or access to them.

What does Child Support Cover in Washington?

In Washington state, child support typically covers:

  • Basic support for food, clothing, and shelter
  • Additional support for medical and dental expenses
  • Educational expenses
  • Child care expenses
  • Travel expenses for visitations
  • Other expenses as ordered by the court.

Child Support When One Parent Lives Outside Washington

To enforce child support orders beyond state boundaries, each state has to have the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) in place. Washington is no exception.

The UIFSA ensures that child support processes and procedures are consistent across states. When one spouse lives in another state where the Washington courts do not have authority to adjudicate or enforce orders, UIFSA reduces these bottlenecks.

As a result of the UIFSA, a WA child support attorney can take legal action against a spouse who now lives in another state to enforce a child support order.

How is Child Maintenance Calculated In Washington?

How Child Maintenance Calculated In Washington

Learn How Child Maintenance Calculated In Washington

In Washington state, child support is calculated using a set of guidelines that take into account the income of both parents, the number of children, and the amount of time each parent spends with the children. The guidelines also consider certain additional expenses, such as child care and medical expenses.

The state has an online child support calculator, which can provide an estimate of the amount of child support that may be ordered. The final decision on child support is made by a judge, taking into account the specific circumstances of each case.

Washington Child Support Calculator or Worksheet

While a child support calculator can be used to estimate child support, it is not a guarantee of the final amount of child maintenance that the judge will order. A child support worksheet is a form used by the WA courts (or negotiating spouses) to approximate the basic child support obligation of the parents.

Regardless of which approach you use, spouses can decide on a child support sum and amend the worksheet accordingly to ensure it accurately reflects their agreement. Both establish a presumption duty to pay child support.

The final decision on the amount of child support is made by the administrative law judge, administrator, or court.

How Washington Guidelines are Applied

The WA court will use child support guidelines, which are law-based and are sometimes known simply as “Guidelines.  Guidelines establish a fundamental minimum amount of child maintenance, from which the court can differ after considering a variety of considerations.

The criteria are believed to be rational, and a decision of support that conforms to the guidelines is believed to be in the best interest of the child,” according to the guidelines.

The Washington Guidelines are based on Net Monthly Income. The court also will employ one of two methods after determining Net Monthly Income:

1. The first method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is less than $7,500.00. The judge will consider the number of children in the household who are the subject of the petition in this case (note that a different calculation applies if an obligor has children in two different households).

2. The second method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is more than $7,500.00.

Gross Income Included in Calculating Child Maintenance

For child support calculation purposes, gross income includes:

  • all wages and salary, including commissions, military pay, tips, overtime, and bonuses
  • self-employment income
  • interest and dividends
  • net rental income from property the parent owns

Even jobless parents are likely to have some sources of income, like:

  • severance pay
  • unemployment benefits
  • retirement benefits
  • veterans’ benefits
  • disability benefits, or
  • workers’ compensation awards.

A WA family court judge may also allocate an income value to parents who do not currently have income-earning employment (like a second house). If a jobless parent inherits assets that can be sold, for instance, the judge may include the property’s market value as a part of such parent’s income.

Where parents willfully go unemployed or underemployed in order to avoid paying child support, judges may infer (assign) income based on what they are supposed to be earning.

Net Income for WA Guidelines

How to determine Net Income for WA child support

How to determine Net Income for WA child support

Remove the following costs from the total gross income to get the parent’s net income for paying child support in Washington:

  • Social Security taxes, or any mandated retirement plan contributions if the parent does not pay those taxes.
  • Income taxes, both federal and state (based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one exemption)
  • union dues
  • The WA court has ruled the parent to pay the child’s health and dental insurance premiums, as well as additional medical bills.

Parents who have already paid child support for another kid or children (from a previous relationship) may be eligible for a refund.

Is Medical Health Insurance Part of Child Support in Washington?

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in Washington

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in Washington

Yes, in addition to the amount of support determined by the guidelines in Washington, the parents will be responsible for the child’s health and dental insurance.

Whereas the noncustodial parent is presumed to provide coverage, this can readily be transferred to the other parent if it makes good sense.

For instance, suppose the custodial parent’s employer offers healthcare insurance for the dependent but the noncustodial parent does not.

Factors Washington Courts Consider Before Ordering Maintenance

The following factors must be considered by the court when determining whether Washington Family Code applies:

  • The age of the child and needs; the parents’ ability to assist
  • Financial resources available to the child
  • For a set period of time, you have custody and access to a child.
  • An increase or decrease in the obligee’s earnings or income due to the obligee’s property and assets
  • Childcare expenses incurred by either parent in order to keep a job
  • any other children under the care of either party
  • Any other children under the care of either party
  • What kind of alimony or spousal maintenance is being paid or received;
  • Obligor or obligee receives an automobile, house, or other benefits from his or her employer or business entity.
  • The parties or the child’s special education, health care, or other expenses
  • The cost of traveling to obtain custody of and access to a child.
  • Cash flow from any estate and assets, including real estate, personal property, and business property, can be positive or negative.

How to Challenge or Modify Child Support Order

  1. File a motion for modification of child support with the court.
  2. Provide evidence of a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income or parenting time.
  3. Attend a hearing where the court will review the evidence and make a decision on the modification request.
  4. If a modification is granted, the court will issue a new child support order.
  5. If either party disagrees with the court’s decision, they have the right to appeal.
  6. An attorney can assist with the legal process, help you gather the necessary evidence, and represent you in court.

Steps to Collect Child Support in Washington

Steps to Collect Child Support in Washington

Steps to Collect Child Support in Washington

Getting a child support order in place is only half the struggle in Washington. You’ll also have to collect the money itself. A noncustodial parent is responsible for paying the full amount of child maintenance per month as imposed by the court. Here are the steps for getting child support in WA

1. Open a Child Support Case

Complete a child support application with your local child support agency/office

2. Locate the Other Parent

To begin the child maintenance procedure in WA, the child support services (CSS) office will use the information provided by the applying parent, as well as information gathered from other sources, to try to locate the other parent.

3. Establish Parentage

It’s critical to establish a legitimate relationship with the child when the other parent has been located. The state will assist you in locating sufficient means. Parents can choose to acknowledge their parentage voluntarily or organize a genetic screening.

4. Establish a Child Support Order

A Washington child support order specifies how much the other parent should pay and includes details such as the payment schedule and provisions for the child’s health insurance.

5. Set Up Payment

Deducting child maintenance from a parent’s paycheck and transferring the money to the other parent or guardian is the most typical method of payment. It’s a simple way to make and track child support payments.

6. Enforce the Support Order

Your WA child support services will enforce the child support order if the noncustodial parent does not pay the full amount or does not pay any. Exposing overdue child support payments to credit bureaus, intercepting income tax refunds, and Withholding child maintenance from unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits are examples of other enforcement measures.

7. Review the Order

Three years after the order is issued, either parent can request their local child support office to revise it. They can ask for a reassessment sooner than three years if a parent’s situation has changed significantly, such as loss of employment or imprisonment.

Washington Child Support Services Office, Number and Login Portal

Office – Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
Division of Child Support (DCS)
1949 S State St #3,
WA 98405,
United States

Phone Number – +1 253-597-3700
Online Login Portal – https://secureaccess.wa.gov/myAccess/saw/select.do

Retroactive Child Support and Arrears

In Washington state, the consequences of not paying child support orders can include:

  1. Wage garnishment
  2. Suspension of driver’s license, professional licenses, or recreational licenses
  3. Property liens
  4. Credit bureau reporting
  5. Passport denial
  6. Jail time for contempt of court
  7. Interest on past-due payments
  8. Legal fees
  9. Denial of public benefits, such as unemployment and welfare
  10. Additional penalties or fines are imposed by the court.

In order to enforce retroactive child support payments in WA, the custodial parent should do the following:

  • The custodial parent can file a motion with the court to request retroactive child support payments.
  • The court will review the motion and make a decision based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
  • If the court grants the motion, the non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay retroactive child support.
  • The custodial parent can also seek the assistance of the Washington State Division of Child Support (DCS) to enforce the court order for retroactive child support.
  • DCS can take enforcement actions such as wage garnishment, intercepting tax refunds, and suspending licenses to collect retroactive child support payments.
  • if the non-custodial parent still does not pay the retroactive child support, the custodial parent can request the court to hold the non-custodial parent in contempt of court.
  • If the court finds the non-custodial parent in contempt, they may face penalties such as fines or even imprisonment.

If you feel the arrears are being demanded wrongly, you can learn how to get child support arrears dismissed HERE.

How to Pay Child Maintenance in Washington

In Washington, parents can pay child maintenance in a variety of ways, as long as your order doesn’t state otherwise:

  • by debit or credit card,
  • mail,
  • check
  • bank transfer
  • direct deposit
  • income withholding, or
  • auto-draft from a bank account.

How to Check your Child Support Payment History in WA

Child Support Payment History in WA

How to Check Child Support Payment History in WA

When there are disagreements between the parents and a need to confirm how much money is owed, child support payment records are extremely beneficial.

When Does Child Support End in Washington?

The Washington court “may order that one or both parents to support a child until:

  • the child is 18 years or finishes high school (whichever comes last),
  • the child emancipates by getting married,
  • the child’s disabilities are removed, or
  • the child dies.

Nevertheless, if the judge determines that the child is disabled (physically or mentally), the child can receive support perpetually.

Custody Rights of a Child in Washington

Understanding Custody Rights of a Child in Washington

How Does WA Child Support Work if one Parent Has no Job?

If one parent has no job, their income will be considered to be zero, but they may still be held responsible for paying child support. The court may impute income to the non-working parent based on their earning potential or other factors. The custodial parent may contact the DCS for assistance in enforcing a child support order, including retroactive payments.

If one parent has no job, the court may still hold them responsible for paying child support. They may be ordered to pay a reduced amount based on their financial circumstances, or the court may impute income to them based on their earning potential. If a parent is unable to pay child support due to a job loss or other financial hardship, they may request a modification of the child support order through the court.

Is Child Support Tax Deductible in Washington?

NO. In Washington state, child support payments are neither taxable to the recipient nor tax-deductible by the payer as stated by the IRS. Don’t include child support payments when calculating your gross income to see whether you have to file a tax return.

However, either parent may be eligible for a dependency exemption per child. If the parents can’t agree on who receives the exemption, the judge will set out the terms in a court order.

Getting a Skilled Washington Child Support Attorney

If you are involved in a family law matter in Washington, you may have a lot more questions than answers at this moment. You are not alone; Correspondence with members has shown that using the services of specialized child support attorneys saves a lot of hassles and most importantly, ensures you come out as a winner for you and your kid.

If you need to fight your child maintenance cause in WA with confidence, then you’ll need attorneys that are both empathetic and strong.

Luckily, we have compiled a database of these expert child support lawyers and made them available for the convenience of our members. You can reach them at the click of a button for legal advice and representation on child maintenance.

Click Here to Get our Free Washington State Alimony recommendation.

Washington State Resource

- Washington State Child Adoption Guidelines
- Washington State Childcare Guidelines
- Washington State Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
- Washington State Child Support Guidelines
- Washington State Divorce Guidelines
- Washington State Marital Property Guidelines
- Washington State Spousal Support Guidelines
- How to Check Washington State Child Support Payment History
- Washington State Child Support Calculator
- Washington State Grants and Assistance for Single Mothers


Child Support Laws in all 50 States

A - Alabama  |  AlaskaArizonaArkansas
C - CaliforniaColoradoConnecticut
D-H - DelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaii
I - IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa
K-L - KansasKentuckyLouisiana
M - MaineMarylandMassachusetts |  Michigan |  Minnesota |  Mississippi |  Missouri |  Montana
N - Nebraska |  Nevada |  New Hampshire |  New Jersey |  New Mexico |  New YorkNorth Carolina |  North Dakota
O - Ohio |  Oklahoma |  Oregon
P-S - Pennsylvania |  Rhode Island |  South Carolina |  South Dakota
T-U - Tennessee |  Texas |  Utah
V-W - Vermont |  VirginiaWashington DC | Washington StateWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming



Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.