Articles Tagged with child support

What happens when after orders are entered in your family law case, the other party violates the order?  In some cases, you can file a motion for contempt and ask the court to enforce the order.  A motion for contempt can be appropriate in the following circumstances:  one parent fails to allow visitation as required by the parenting plan, one parent will not return the child to the other at the end of the visitation, one parent fails to encourage the child to comply with the parenting plan.  A motion for contempt may also be appropriate if child support or spousal maintenance are not being paid as ordered. Furthermore, contempt motions may be used to require the other party to give you property awarded to you by a court order.  Motions for contempt may also be necessary to enforce temporary orders or other permanent orders.

If you are considering filing a motion for contempt, you should be sure you have adequate grounds to do so.  In most cases, this means speaking with a family law attorney about the orders that have been violated and your best method of redress.  In many cases, an attorney will recommend that you remind the other party of the order (in writing) and ask that the other party comply.  The attorney will also probably advise that you keep records of these requests and any other documentation necessary to prove that the orders were violated.

If the court finds that the other party is in contempt, it can order a number of remedies depending on what type of order was violated.  That said, in addition to whatever remedy is obtained, if the other party repeatedly fails to comply with court orders, an order of contempt can create a record of these actions.  In some cases, if there are multiple findings of contempt (or even only one finding), the court may provide additional remedies to ensure that the order is not violated again.

When parents are in a committed relationship (like marriage) they usually discuss and agree on what extracurricular activities the children participate in. Parents consider whether their household can afford the activities, whether the activities are safe, and how much say the child will have regarding whether to participate. Extracurricular activities can include everything from chess club, sports, ski bus, or boy scouts. Decisions regarding extracurricular activities (especially those on an ongoing basis) can have major impacts on the child’s schedule and the parent’s pocketbook. As you can imagine, these decisions can be especially difficult in families where the parents are living separate and apart.

Sometimes, the parenting plan and/or child support order dictate the decision making process for extracurricular activities. It might dictate how the parents split the costs of the extracurricular activities, or how many activities a child may participate at a time. However, in most cases the plan and order say little about extracurricular activities beyond apportioning the cost of such activities between the parties. This often leaves the parties with little guidance when deciding whether a child may participate in an activity. Here are a few considerations for a parent (who is not married to the child’s other parent) thinking of signing a child up for these activities:

  1. Consider the child’s residential schedule. When deciding whether to sign a child up for an activity, look at when the activity is supposed to take place, and then compare that to the child’s residential schedule. If all the meetings are on Wednesday nights, and the child is not scheduled to reside with you on Wednesday night, you will probably need the other parent on board in order for the child to participate.
  2. Consider the cost. Does the order of child support give any guidance as to how the costs should be shared, or is the parent who signs the child up solely responsible? These are important considerations if you are living on a budget. You will also want to make sure that you don’t need the other parent’s consent prior to signing the child up for an activity that you would like to share the cost of.
  3. Consider asking for agreement even if you don’t have to. Sometimes, even where the orders don’t require it, it is best to ask the child’s other parent whether they will agree to the child participating in an extracurricular activity. If a child has expressed interest to you, they may have told the other parent too, and that parent might be happy to share the burden and expense of the extracurricular. *This is obviously not advisable if there is any order restricting communication between you and the other party.

If you are considering terminating your relationship with your child’s other parent, it is probably in your best interest to speak with an attorney about how participation in extracurricular activities will be decided and afforded. If you have questions about this or any other issue, please contact us.

Parents of high school students planning on heading to college or technical school after high school often spend part of their summer looking at colleges, or helping kids prepare for the SATs. Parents may also spend some of their time planning on (or worrying about) how they will pay for their children’s education. For a parent of a high school student not married to child’s other parent, there is also the consideration of how to share the cost of the child’s education with the other parent.

A parent may choose to ask that the court require the other parent to contribute to the child’s educational expenses. If the parent is considering doing so, he or she should do the following:

  1. Review RCW 26.19.090. This statute provides the things the court will consider when determining whether postsecondary support should be awarded. It is a good starting point for anyone considering requesting postsecondary support.
  2. Gather Information and Documentation. After your review of RCW 26.19.090 is complete, you should start to gather documents that could help you prove that your child is intending to and capable of attending an accredited school, and that the child is dependent on you and the other parent. You will also want to gather documentation and information relating to any of the factors discussed in RCW 26.19.090(1).
  3. Consider the Timing. If your child is not yet applied to any post-secondary school, it may be difficult for the court to determine the costs to be apportioned. It may be best to wait until your child has made a decision about what to do after high school. However, it is very important that you seek postsecondary support prior to the order of child support terminating. In most cases, child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. You must file your action for postsecondary support prior to that event occuring.

It is generally in your best interest to discuss your likelihood of success in a postsecondary case with a qualified attorney prior to filing anything with the court. If you live in the Seattle area, and have any questions regarding family law, we would be happy to speak with you.

A recent article on Bloomberg.com states that the divorce rate in America is rising alongside our improving economy. The article suggests that people stuck in marriages for financial reasons, are now able to leave in the improved financial climate. The changing economy definitely impacts our clients. Here are three changes we’ve noticed in the last few months:

  1. Homes are more likely to be an asset. Before housing prices dropped, we would often see clients whose greatest asset was their home. Then, when the recession hit and housing prices dropped precipitously, clients were dealing with a home that was their greatest debt. Parties would argue over who got stuck with the house! Now, we’re back in a place where most of our clients’ homes are assets again.
  2. Child support and spousal maintenance levels are likely to be higher. With an improved economy, there are many people with improved salaries and more assets. Unsurprisingly, this usually means that they will pay more in child support or spousal maintenance than they did when they made less, and had less.
  3. People are employed. We’ve seen more of our clients with stable full-time employment in recent months. This is especially helpful as we try and help our clients plan for their financial futures post-divorce. It also impacts how parenting plans are designed. A parent at work may require more evening and weekend time, and less middle of the day time than a non-working parent.

As things continue to change in our local and national economies, we are prepared to help with all your family law issues. We stay abreast of the changing economic conditions, and how these conditions might affect our clients. Please contact us today.

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 friend approached me over the weekend with a question regarding whether she should use the court system to enforce her recently-entered order of child support. The order requires that daycare expenses be shared between the parties. However, when she went to her ex-husband to obtain his portion, he said he “already pays enough, and she should be able to cover the costs out of that.” His response directly contradicts the language of the order. That said, it wasn’t clear based on the information she provided whether it would be in her best interest to obtain a lawyer and start litigation. There are a few things I encouraged her to consider before rushing to litigate:

  1. How much money does the other party owe you? Prior to engaging in litigation, a party(hopefully with the help of a qualified attorney) should do a cost versus benefit analysis. How much will it cost you to litigate this dispute? How much do you stand to gain? As attorneys, we sometimes have to advise our clients not to litigate even if we know their likelihood of winning is high, if the amount they stand to recover will be less than the resources expended in pursuing the case.
  2. Can I have someone else pursue this on my behalf? The Division of Child Support (a division of DSHS) has the ability to assist families in need of child support services with establishment or enforcement of an order of child support. In many cases, family law attorneys encourage potential clients to seek remedies through DCS. It is important to remember that although your interests may coincide with that of DCS, DCS will not be your personal attorney.
  3. Are there any non-pecuniary benefits of pursuing litigation? In some cases, it is worthwhile to pursue the misdoing of the opposing party to increase the likelihood that court orders are followed in the future. If you think letting something slide is likely to encourage the other parent to continually push limits and lose respect for you and the court orders, it might be worth it (as long as your attorney feels confident the court will not deem your action frivolous) to enforce the order to establish an understanding that failing to follow court orders will not be accepted.
  4. Are you following the order? Be prepared that if you seek to have an order enforced against the other party, the court is likely to also enforce it against you. This means that if you are seeking to enforce the proportional share of daycare provision of the order, the court may look to see that you are complying with your obligations as well (e.g. that you provide receipts, share other costs or communicate such requests in writing).

Please contact us if you have questions regarding the enforcement of a child support order or other family law order.

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.

The most important decision in most child support and spousal maintenance (commonly referred to as alimony) conflicts is the determination of how much income each spouse is earning. In some cases, this is not a difficult or elongated task. If the earning party (or parties) receive a paycheck from an employer on a regular basis and for the same amount, and if there are no extenuating circumstances, income can be determined and child support and spousal maintenance issues can be made easier.

However, in many cases, income determination is not that easy, and is one of the most hard-fought and important issues in a family law case. Many people are paid on commission or commission/base structures. Some people are paid varying amounts throughout the year. In some cases, a party has obtained a new job or lost an old one and his or her income is going to change dramatically as a result.

All of the foregoing circumstances can make income determination more complicated, but perhaps the most challenging cases regarding determination of income are when one (or both) party owns a business. In these cases, income is often not as simple as looking at the business owner’s salary. The discovery process (the process by which bank account, investment account, and business liability information can be obtained) is of special importance. Depending on the business, it can also be necessary and worthwhile to bring in financial experts including business valuation experts and appraisers to determine how much income the business-owning-spouse is (or is not) making.

When faced with the unenviable position of being both unemployed, and ordered to pay child support, people often have questions about what type of relief they can receive from their child support obligations. The answer to that question (and so many others in the world of law) is: it depends. As with all issues discussed on this blog, the more thorough response that follows is not personalized, and it is advisable to talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances.

In general, if an obligor (paying parent) is unemployed at the time child support is set, the court will consider this in setting child support. Often, the court will order that the obligor pay a lower amount while unemployed, but may require that as soon as the obligor obtains employment, the child support amount be modified. In other circumstances (for example if the court believes that you are under employed or unemployed intentionally to reduce your child support amount), the court will not take your unemployment into consideration and will order child support to be paid at an amount based on your earning potential, not your actual income.

If the obligor become unemployed (or the income is otherwise significantly reduced) after child support is set, it is likely that the obligor will want to advise the court of this change and ask that the court give him or her some relief. This is done by petitioning the court to modify your order of child support. (It is often important to petition the court as soon as a change occurs; the change in child support may only date back to the date of the petition, not the day your income changed.) If the obligor is only unemployed for a month or so, and then returns to work earning a similar income, it may not be worth the time and resources to ask the court to change the support order; however, if the obligor anticipates having a harder time earning the same income or finding a job at all, it is more likely to be worth the time and resources to request a modification.

When deciding the appropriate level of child support, the court has to determine the income of both parties involved (i.e. the parents). The determination of income (what’s included and what isn’t) is often the most important financial finding a court makes during an action involving child support. It has a lasting impact on both the obligor (paying spouse) and the obligee (receiving spouse).

It is important that you have competent and thorough counsel on your side when this determination is being made.

Some of the highlights of RCW 26.19.071 are provided below: