I often receive phone calls from people who have been receiving child support for several years without being adjusted. More often than not, the child support they are receiving was set several years ago, and was calculated when both parents were making less money, when the standard child support calculation was based upon a previous child support economic table, and when the cost of raising children was lower in actual dollars.
So, when can a parent seek a child support order adjustment? Under Washington law, an adjustment can be sought if twenty-four months have passed from the date of the entry of the original child support order, or the last adjustment or modification of the original child support order, whichever is later, and upon a showing of changes in the income of the parents, or changes in the economic table or standards in RCW 26.19. In other words, if it has been two years since your last child support order was entered, and there has either been a change in your income or your former partner’s income, or it has been two years since your last child support order was entered and there has been a change in the economic table the court uses to establish child support, then you may seek an adjustment.
There are two additional justifications one can use to substantiate a child support order adjustment: it has been 12 months since the previous order was entered and the previous order provides for support to be periodically adjusted, or; the right to request post secondary support was reserved in the previous child support order and the court needs to determine each parent’s obligation, or the previous support order provided that the parents shall pay for post secondary support and the court needs to allocate the expenses. These justifications relating to post secondary education are often combined with a motion to adjust support as outlined in the preceding paragraph.
Seeking an adjustment is not to be confused with seeking modification of a previous child support order. The advantage of seeking an adjustment in contrast to seeking a modification of a previous child support order is the standard for obtaining an adjustment is significantly less demanding. A modification requires a showing of a substantially changed circumstance at any time, or if the previous child support order in practice works a severe economic hardship on either party or the child and it has been one year since the previous support order was entered. Establishing either a substantial change in circumstance, or that a particular order would be a severe economic hardship is not black-and-white, whereas establishing the facts necessary for an adjustment are: Has it been 24 months? Has there been a change in the parents’ income? And has there been a change in the economic tables? These are all questions which can be objectively, rather than subjectively answered.
The bottom line: if you are either the recipient or payor of child support, and it has been at least 24 months since your previous child support order was entered, you should consult with an attorney to determine whether you should seek an adjustment.
Written by J. Scott Ralston, Attorney and Counselor at Law. Mr. Ralston leads the litigation practice at Gregorek and Associates, PLLC where he handles complex legal matters for families, individuals and businesses. Mr. Ralston handles a complex and varied case load including business and real estate transactions; Commercial litigation; Trust and estate and probate litigation (TEDRA); Guardianship; Family law including: prenuptial agreements, dissolution (divorce), parenting plans and custody matters; Insurance coverage and Personal injury. Mr. Ralston recognizes the seriousness and urgency in resolving disputes in a fair and equitable manner that yields the greatest possible outcome for the client.
Mr. Ralston may be reached at 877-284-3450 or at http://www.rjglegal.com/.