Couples who have children may decide not to get married for a variety of reasons. As this type of family structure becomes more and more common, parents face a challenge when navigating the end of their relationship. In addition to determining child custody, parents will also be expected to provide for their shared children.

Although child custody and child support are issues often raised in a divorce, child support has nothing to do with legal marriage. You can absolutely be owed child support by another parent even if you were never married. In fact, you could even be owed back child support in some cases.

Establishing Parentage to Get Child Support

Mother and Daughter Snuggling While Using the ComputerUnder the law, all parents have a legal duty to help support their children. When setting the required amount of support payments, the court will focus on both parents’ incomes and extra activities along with healthcare, schooling, and childcare. Once the child's father is legally identified, he must meet his obligation under the law to provide financial support.

It may be necessary to establish paternity in order to collect child support. This can be done by:

  • Paternity Acknowledgement. New fathers may voluntarily sign a Paternity Acknowledgement form and file it with the Washington State Department of Health after the child is born. You may simply request a copy of this form.
  • Domestic partnership. A presumption of parentage exists if the couple establishes a legal domestic partnership before the birth of a child. However, paternity may still be disputed in these cases.
  • Genetic testing. If a father does not voluntarily admit parentage, the court may order him to submit to a genetic paternity test.

Can I Get Back Payments for Child Support?

It may be possible for you to collect child support back payments, called arrears, for any period in which your ex-partner failed to meet the terms of the child support order. Under Washington law, you have 10 years from the date that the youngest child covered by the order turns 18 years old to collect past-due support payments. Once the youngest child on the support order turns 28 years old, a judgment for arrears may not be enforceable.

Could I Get a Higher Amount of Support?

The amount you receive is based on income and is set by the court. However, you could petition the court to modify the support order to a higher amount in certain cases. For example, if the support order was created before your ex-partner got a significant income boost or the expenses required to care for the child have increased, the court may approve a change in the order.

It's worth noting that support orders can also be modified based on changes in the parenting plan. Support payments are intended to supplement the financial support the parent with primary custody provides through feeding, shelter, and daily care of the child. If the child begins to spend more time eating, sleeping, or living in the non-custodial parent's home, the non-custodial parent may petition the court for lower financial payments.

If you have questions about custody arrangements or need to alter your child support agreement, you should speak with an experienced child support lawyer to learn the options available to you. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we answer all of your questions and do everything we can to help you continue to provide for your children. Call us today to arrange a private consultation, or use our online contact form to have us get back to you.


Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington