After a divorce involving children, a spouse who does not have custody of the children is often required to pay the custodial spouse to help support the kids, commonly known as child support. The child support payments are not meant for the custodial spouse’s personal use, and instead should utilized to provide for the children’s basic living expenses, such as shelter, clothing, food, education and health care.

Child support is not always awarded, and the amount will depend on the nature of the case. The following includes some of the most common child support arrangements in Bellevue and the reasons behind each one.

When One Parent Has Primary Physical Custody

In the event that one parent is awarded sole legal or physical custody, the court may decide that the non-custodial parent should be obligated to help out by making payments. A court will determine child support based on the Washington State Child Support schedule, which takes into account available income, the children’s age and other factors when deciding on the amount. The agreement may deviate from the Schedule, however, in certain circumstances and with court approval.

When Parents Are Unmarried

In some circumstances, two individuals may have a child together, never marry, and then separate, leaving the child to live with one or the other parent. In this case, both parents still are required to provide for the well-being of the child, and the non-custodial parent may be obligated to contribute via regular child support payments.

When Parents Are Separated, but Not Divorced

A period of separation often precedes a divorce for many couples, leaving the non-earning spouses to wonder if they are able to obtain child support payments before the divorce is finalized. Again, in this scenario, a custodial parent may be able to file a petition for child support to provide for the children. Once the divorce is finished, the child support agreement may be modified depending on the specifics of custody and visitation rights of both parents.

Child Support and Stepchildren

Under RCW 26.16.205, a stepparent is responsible for providing for any children and stepchildren he or she assumes upon marriage or creation of a domestic partnership. The same law asserts that this obligation ends upon the finalization of a divorce, although the stepparent may be responsible for child support payments until that actually occurs.

When a Stepparent Adopts Stepchildren

When entering a family with children, a stepparent may choose to adopt the children (only if the other parent is willing to terminate parental rights) for a variety of reasons. Upon doing so, any previous child support agreements between the biological parents would cease, although the non-custodial parent still would be liable to pay for any child support in arrears. Keep in mind that this also terminates the biological parent's rights to see and access the children.

Do You Need Help Establishing or Modifying a Child Support Agreement?

The determination of a child support agreement ultimately depends on the specifics of each scenario and may not be predicted with accuracy before divorce. If you have questions about child support arrangements in Washington, or if you need help filing a petition or modifying an existing agreement, please don’t hesitate to contact us today at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny. We are prepared to help you in any way possible.

You can reach us at 425-460-0550, or you can fill out the form located on our contact page to set up a consultation with a family law attorney.

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