Is it Time to Modify Child Support?
Recent statistics show that average incomes across Washington State have significantly increased over the past year. According to the federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) report, Washington state has, on average, seen a 6.25% wage increase as of September 2017.
King County showed a 10% increase in wages in the report. These wage improvements are not just in white collar or tech industries either. Due to the increase in minimum wage and dropping unemployment rate ( 4.7% in Washington - preliminary for February 2018) many blue collar, retail, health care, and education professions (to name just a few) are experiencing a financial windfall. Given this information, now may be the right time to reevaluate child support.
Many are hesitant to jump into a possibly contentious legal battle…again. The emotional and financial scars from a divorce or paternity action can leave lasting impressions on families, and it is understandable that many choose to shy away from reopening old wounds. This is especially true when there is uncertainty about whether or not it is appropriate to initiate an action to modify child support. It can be helpful to learn about the laws governing these kinds of actions.
Washington State has statutes, or laws, regarding when child support may be modified or adjusted. These statutes provide the specific requirements for each type of court action. The amount of time that has passed since the final child support order was entered by the court, the language in the original child support order, and changes to certain life circumstances of either parent are some (but not all) of the factors considered by the court.
There are two ways to change child support, a Motion to Adjust Child Support Order, or a Petition to Modify Child Support Order. Each has specific guidelines.
ADJUSTMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT:
Filing a Motion to Adjust Child Support Order is generally faster and easier than filing a Petition to Modify Child Support Order. In King County (check your own county’s rules) there is a hearing on the motion, not a trial, and there are fewer legal hoops to jump through to obtain an adjustment. The purpose of filing an adjustment, however, is usually to ONLY change the support monthly transfer amount and perhaps the proportional share of expenses, such as daycare. It should not be used to request that additional expenses be covered. There are specific requirements and limits to this type of court action that a legal counselor can help you understand.
PETITION TO MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT:
A Petition to Modify Child Support Order can serve a greater purpose than a simple adjustment of child support. Not only can you change the amount of the monthly child support transfer payment and the proportional share for each parent to contribute towards other child-related expenses, a Petition to Modify Child Support Order allows you to add or remove expenses that the parents pay. For example, if you want to extend the period for which child support is paid, you would like the court to determine payment of post-secondary expenses, or there is a change in health insurance coverage, a modification would be appropriate. While a modification is a more complex procedure than an adjustment, it may be worthwhile to explore this option, especially if there have been significant changes to incomes and/or expenses, or if your child(ren) is/are now in high school and planning to attend college after graduation. The option to file a Petition to Modify Child Support Order is also dependent on many specific requirements and procedures determined by the courts.
During this positive economic environment, you may want to consider if this is the right time for you to take action to modify or adjust child support.
The information above does not contain all of the considerations in determining if a modification or adjustment of child support is appropriate. Each case is unique and seeking the advice of legal counsel can give you more information about your specific situation.