Articles Posted in Child Support, Parenting Plans

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A judgment or judgment lien for accrued child support in Washington remains in force for 10 years after the youngest child named in the order turns 18, pursuant to RCW 4.56.210.  The statute therefore generally makes a child support judgment unenforceable after the youngest child turns 28.  Washington courts have referred to this statute as a “nonclaim statute.”

calendarRCW 74.20A.220 allows a parent to extend or waive “any statute which may bar or impair the collection of the debt….”  A father recently challenged the applicability of his waiver to RCW 4.56.210 on the ground that it is a nonclaim statute rather than a statute of limitations.

The father was ordered to pay monthly child support when his marriage was dissolved.  He made the first child support payment nine years after the order was entered.  He subsequently signed a waiver eliminating the time limit for collecting the approximately $50,000 he owed in unpaid child support.  The “Waiver of the Statute of Limitations Defense” stated it applied to “[a]ny statute of limitations defense created by RCW 4.16.020, RCW 4.56.210, or RCW 6.17.020” and any other statute “that limits the time DCS can collect [the defendant’s] support debt.”  The waiver further stated it allowed DCS to collect until the defendant had paid the support debt in full.

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Courts should remain impartial regarding religious beliefs and sexual orientation when considering custody arrangements and parenting plans.  When a court relies on and adopts the opinions and recommendations of witnesses who express biases based on these issues, the entire parenting plan may be called into question.  Such was the situation in a case recently decided by the Washington Supreme Court.

wedding ringsThe couple had been married for nearly 20 years at the time of their divorce.  They had three sons, whom they raised in a conservative Christian church and sent to Christian schools.  The wife had been the primary caretaker of the children, and the husband had been the primary wage earner for most of their marriage.

In 2011, the wife told the husband she thought she might be gay.  She stopped going to the family church and began a romantic relationship with a woman.

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Health care can be very expensive, especially if the treatment is not covered by insurance.  A child support order will generally set out how uninsured medical expenses are allocated, but what happens when one parent seeks treatment for a child who is not covered by insurance?  The Washington Supreme Court considered this issue in a recent case.

emergencyThe child developed a kidney stone.  The condition grew worse while she was visiting her aunt, and she had a temporary stent installed at a hospital in the Cincinnati area.  She was also referred to a group in the area for lithotripsy, which would break open the stone by ultrasonic waves.

The child was covered by her father’s insurance, which was not available in the Cincinnati area where her aunt lived. The nearest facility covered by the insurer was in the Cleveland area.  The wife contacted the husband, who said the aunt should either drive the child to the in-network facility or wait to see if the insurer would approve an out-of-network provider.  The wife felt the daughter needed immediate treatment.  The aunt took the child to the physician group in Cincinnati, and they treated the stone with lithotripsy.  The medical expenses totaled about $13,000.  The insurer determined that the treatment was non-emergent and out-of-network and denied payment.

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Under Washington law, courts may order postsecondary support for children in some circumstances, but as a recent case reminds us, it is not automatic. Parents must be sure they understand the child support order and follow any deadlines for filing the petition for postsecondary support.  It is important that parents consult with their attorneys before the child turns 18 or graduates from high school.  The child support order may require the parent to petition for postsecondary educational support before the child’s high school graduation.

lecture roomIn this case, the child support order stated that support would continue until each child reached the age of 18 or graduated from high school, whichever was later, but not after a child reached the age of 19, except as provided in the paragraph on postsecondary educational support.  That paragraph provided that the right to petition for postsecondary support was reserved as long as it was exercised before the child turned 18.

The child had already turned 18 at the time the father filed for postsecondary educational support, but they were still in high school.  The court dismissed the petition as untimely, and the father appealed.

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Washington family law provides for child support to include post-secondary education in some circumstances.  Before awarding this type of support, the court must first determine if the child is dependent on the parents for his or her reasonable necessities.  The court has discretion in determining how long to award the support, based on a number of factors.  The statute requires the child to be enrolled in an accredited institution, pursuing studies commensurate with his or her vocational goals, and to be in good academic standing.  The statute requires an automatic suspension if the child fails to comply with these requirements. RCW 26.19.090.

booksIf a court does award post-secondary education support, it must determine the consequences of the child’s failure to comply with the conditions in the order.  A Washington appeals court recently considered this issue in an unpublished opinion.

The trial court had modified the child support order to include post-secondary education for one of the couple’s daughters in 2014.  The order included a condition that the daughter “enroll in and attend school full-time.”  The daughter was not a full-time student during the spring term of 2015, due to medical issues.  A court commissioner granted the father’s motion to terminate support for the daughter.  The superior court then denied the mother’s motion for revision and entered a judgment against the mother for the tuition the husband had paid and attorney fees.  The court also denied the mother’s motion for reconsideration, and she appealed.

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Matters related to children are often the most contentious aspects of a divorce.  Ideally, parents will work together to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement regarding custody, decision-making, and support.  When the parties cannot agree, however, the court may have to decide these issues based on factual findings and statutory requirements.

GavelA Washington appeals court recently considered several issues related to parenting in a recent case. A temporary order granted equal residential time, appointed a guardian ad litem, and authorized joint decision-making.  A subsequent stipulated order stated the parties agreed to update each other on the child’s health and follow the recommendations of his health care providers.  Following the trial, however, the trial court entered an order limiting the father’s residential time based on findings of abusive use of conflict, neglect, and not acting in the child’s best interest.

The trial court determined the father’s net monthly income was more than $15,000, while the mother’s was less than $400, making the combined income greater than the top support schedule tier.  RCW 26.19.020.  The trial court ordered a transfer payment of $3,000 per month, which was greater than the amount provided in the statute.  The husband appealed the child support order and the parenting plan.

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Everyone can relate to the experience of walking into the grocery store without a shopping list and leaving the store without what you went in for, having spent lots of money on things you didn’t need.  Notes aren’t only important for grocery shopping.  They can help keep meetings on task, organized, and efficient.  That is why we recommend that people bring notes into their first meeting with a family law attorney.  One sheet of paper is probably enough for your first meeting.  The paper should include the following: Continue reading

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Myth 1:

You don’t have to pay child support if you have a 50/50 parenting plan.

Fact:  While it is true that in some cases with 50/50 parenting plans there will be no transfer payment of child support from one parent to the other, in many 50/50 cases, especially those where the parents’ incomes are very different, one parent may still have to pay money to the other parent for the support of the child.

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Washington family law clients and attorneys alike should know that there are changes coming to the Washington State Family Law Forms.  The revised forms will become required on May 1, 2016, but they are available now on the Washington Courts Website for review and preparation for adoption.

The forms are called “Plain Language” forms and are meant to be easier to read and understated.  From our review, many of the forms are easier to read and understand.  This will benefit pro se litigants (those people that are not being assisted by a family law attorney).  It will also benefit people that have attorneys, because they won’t have to waste their valuable time having the complicated forms explained, and, instead, will be able to spend their time telling their family law attorney about the facts of their case and giving the attorney time to discuss strategy and the best way to move forward.  It will also benefit people that are represented by an attorney, but are opposing a party that is pro se.  These pro se opposing parties sometimes make claims that they did not understand the online forms and as such should not be held to what they agreed to therein.  The Plain Language forms will be easier to understand and thus, if someone signs these documents the courts will probably be less likely to believe that a party did not understand what they were signing.   Continue reading

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As many parents of adult children know, most children do not stop needing support (financial, mental, and emotional) when they turn eighteen or graduate from high school.  Providing continued emotional or mental support is usually not a point of contention between parents.  Whether to provide financial support can be a different story.  When the parents of adult children are still married at the time the child reaches the age of majority, the parents usually decide together how much longer they will offer housing, pay for college, and otherwise financially support the child.  When the parents are not married at the time the child turns eighteen or graduates (and the current child support order ends), there are often questions about whether to provide support (and how much support) for the adult child.  There is also the question of who should contribute to the support.

Sometimes, unmarried parents request that the court determine whether and how much postsecondary support should be provided to the child.  A parent must request postsecondary education contribution from the other parent prior to the current child support order ending (usually eighteen or when the child graduates from high school).  If a request is made through court action, the court may decide to award post-secondary support, but it is not mandatory.

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