As with all states, Washington law provides that parents must contribute to the wellbeing of their children through financial support. While each state has its own approach to calculating child support, Washington recognizes two basic and distinct types of child support, each of which are calculated differently.
- Basic Child Support: This financial obligation is paid by the non-primary (or “noncustodial”) parent to the primary (or “custodial”) parent, who resides with the child more than ½ the time. As the name suggests, basic child support pays for the child’s basic and necessary needs such as food, clothing, shelter, etc. It is calculated based on a statutory formula that takes into consideration the combined net incomes of both parents, as well as the number and ages of the children.
- “Other” Child Support: In addition to basic financial child support, Washington law requires that both parents support their children with regard to other defined expenses, such as monthly health insurance premiums, day care costs, and uninsured health care costs. Each parent is responsible for contributing financial support for these expenses based on his or her percentage of the combined net income.
Expenses Not Mandated by Washington Child Support Laws
Now that we know what is required under Washington’s child support laws, we can examine what is not mandated.
- Travel/Vacation Expenses: Generally, the travel expenses incurred by one parent who wishes to travel and/or vacation with the children will not be covered by mandated child support.
- Sports & Extracurricular Activities: The expenses associated with the children’s sports and extracurricular activities (as well as other non-necessary fees and expenses) typically are not covered by child support.
- Driver’s Education and Auto Insurance: An order of child support usually does not address expenses for driver’s education or auto insurance, which can be a significant cost.
- Higher Education: Generally, Washington law provides that parents must contribute financial child support to cover the costs related to raising children until graduation from high school or until their 18th birthday, whichever occurs first. Therefore, if parents do not incorporate specific provisions regarding the payment of college expenses (i.e., who, if anyone, pays for what and how much) at the outset, these expenses may be disregarded.
** Note: Keep in mind that any of the above-listed expenses may be addressed by agreement of the parties, which then becomes part of a legally-binding court order. In some circumstances, the court may order the parents to contribute to sports and extracurricular activities, driver’s education, auto insurance, etc., in addition to child support.
Options for Parents
Therefore, with respect to issues and expenses not mandated by Washington’s child support laws, it is, as a practical matter, best to address these issues at the time of divorce. It will generally be more difficult to address and apportion financial responsibility for these expenses down the road.
Schedule a Child Support Consultation at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.
At Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., we help our clients understand how Washington’s child support system works, and how expenses not required under the law may be agreed upon or otherwise addressed. It is important that you have an experienced family law attorney on your side. To discuss your situation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys, call (253) 272-2997 or request a confidential consultation online today.