When a parent does not exercise his or her visitation time, the child is obviously affected, but so is the other parent. In addition to any scheduling issues that may result, there are also financial effects on the other parent. A parent who completely stops visitation may reduce his or her own child-related expenses while increasing those of the other parent. A Washington appeals court recently held that, in a Washington family law case, a court may deviate from the standard calculation to put a greater child support obligation on a parent who abdicates visitation.
Facts and History of the Case
In this case, the parties had been divorced since 2004. Under a modified parenting plan, the father had residential time with the two children on Wednesday evenings, every other weekend, and half of holidays, school vacations, and other special occasions. The mother sought an increase in child support above the standard calculation in 2013. She argued she had an increased financial burden because the father had abdicated his residential time with the children. The trial court found the father had voluntarily stopped having contact with the children in late 2010. The trial court found it was not authorized to deviate from the standard calculation due to the father’s lack of residential time because the combined monthly income of the parties was less than $12,000. On appeal, the appeals court found the trial court did have the authority to deviate from the standard calculation where a parent lessens his or her financial responsibility by abdicating visitation. The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to make appropriate findings and determine the appropriate deviation.