When a Washington parent files for divorce, numerous issues relevant to his or her children become a central focus of proceedings. If you are currently considering filing a petition, you will no doubt want to navigate the process in a way that causes the least amount of disruption to your children’s everyday life. It would be impossible to settle a divorce that includes children without discussing financial issues or child support.

Most Washington family court judges believe that divorced parents should both maintain active roles in their children’s lives and cooperate to provide for their emotional, physical and financial needs. Every state has its own guidelines regarding child support. It is helpful to learn more about the laws of this state before you and your ex try to resolve financial issues in your divorce.

The court considers net income when ordering child support

Gross income is the amount of money you earn before taxes or other government-required deductions. Net income is what you have left after all deductions. To determine how much child support a parent should pay, the court considers the parent’s net income.

In addition to the paying parent’s income, the court also takes the non-paying parent’s net income into account, as well as various expenses, such as childcare costs, medical insurance or other recurring fees. To determine a fair amount of financial supplement following a divorce, the court considers the cost of living throughout the state and how much the average two-parent household needs to cover financial expenses associated with children’s needs.

Beyond the basic three expenses

If your children are going to live with you after divorce, you will provide food, clothing and shelter. These are basic needs that incur an expense. When requesting child support, however, you can also factor in costs associated with extracurricular activities, travel, education, medical expenses and more.

The court’s child support order remains active until your child graduates from high school or reaches age 18. Once the order is in place, it remains legally enforceable, unless and until the court modifies the order, such as reducing or increasing payments. Either you or your ex may file a petition for modification. If you do this, however, you must be prepared to demonstrate a legitimate need because the court does not change its orders unless a judge determines that a change would be best for the children.