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Articles Tagged with 50/50

Most people are familiar with the stereotypical “divorced dad schedule” for kids of divorce: every other weekend, and every Wednesday night for a couple hours. Times have changed. Nowadays, dads are often the primary parent. Even when they’re not the primary parent, dads are frequently receiving more time with their kids. There are families that have 50/50 residential schedules where kids are scheduled to spend equal amounts of time with each parent (or close to it). These schedules can be great for kids and parents, but they do lead to some interesting questions. One of the most frequently asked questions in these situations is: in a 50/50 residential schedule who pays child support?

This is a great question. Unfortunately, there isn’t always a certain answer. When kids spend a significant amount of time with the obligor parent (the one paying child support), a downward deviation may be requested. A deviation is an exception, or derogation from standard child support transfer amount (based on the Washington State Child Support Schedule). Deviations based on residential schedules are permitted under RCW 26.10.075(1)(d). That statute permits the court to deviate from the standard calculation if the children spend “a significant amount of time with the parent who is obligated to make a support transfer payment.” That paragraph continues, stating that this deviation may not be granted if the deviation will result in insufficient funds in the obligee’s home to meet the basic needs of the children.  RCW 26.19.075(1)(d).

If the court determines that a deviation should be granted, the statute requires that in determining the amount of the deviation, the court consider evidence regarding increased expenses to the obligor parent and the decreased expenses of the oblige parent created by the residential schedule. RCW 26.19.075(1)(d). As an obligor parent, you would want to show that you have to provide clothing, an extra bedroom, sports equipment, meals in and out of the home, etc. You’d also want to show the savings that the obligee has because of the schedule (usually the reverse of the additional expenses you will have).

A discussion recently transpired among family law practitioners regarding child support payments in circumstances where parenting plans provide for equal (50/50) residential time with each parent. A novice family law attorney was coming to the (more experienced) field of family law lawyers looking for an answer to her client’s question regarding child support. Unfortunately, even the most veteran among us was unable to give a clear answer because the law does not provide a clear answer. Instead, it appears, based on many practitioners experience, that it depends on the specific circumstances of the case, or even the specific decision maker’s opinion on how this issue should be handled. In a case where one parent has the child(ren) 90% of the time, it can be fairly simple to determine how much child support the parent with 10% of the residential time will pay (assuming no extenuating circumstances). In those cases, the law does provide a fairly straightforward process for determining child support based on the parties income. But, when there is a 50/50 parenting plan in place, it is less clear if the same process applies, or if another formula should apply.

What is clear is that one thing is always considered by the court when making decisions regarding this issue. The court is going to want to know about the income disparity (if there is one) between the parties. If both parties make roughly the same amount, it is more likely the court will order that there be no transfer payment (i.e. one parent paying the other). With a large disparity in income, it becomes more likely that there will be a transfer payment. This makes sense given that the total child support amount (the amount that the legislature has deemed should be spent on a child with parents of that combined income level) is to be shared between the parties, and the lower-earning parent will be unable to provide for the child at the level the parties could if they were both contributing their proportional (tbased on income) share to the support of the child.

There is a separate formula for when the parties with more than one child split the children up, with one child residing at one parent’s home, and the other residing at the other parent’s home.

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