How Do I Get a Modification of a Child Support Order in Washington State?
There are two ways to modify, or change, a current child support order in Washington State: 1) filing a motion for adjustment, or; 2) filing a petition for modification of child support.
Child Support Adjustments vs. Modifications
What is a Child Support Adjustment?
A child support adjustment changes the child support transfer payment and the percentages assigned to each parent for payment of uninsured medical expenses and other child support expenses not included in the transfer payment, if applicable, such as daycare or extracurricular activities. No other provisions of a child support order can be changed.
What is Required to Get a Child Support Adjustment?
A child support adjustment may be obtained once 2 years have passed since entry of the current child support order. Adjustment merely requires showing a change of incomes in either or both of the parties and/or that a child has reached age 12. The Washington State Child Support Schedule Economic Table has two age brackets – 1-11 and 12-18, and the monthly basic support obligation increases at age 12. No trial is necessary. Instead, a motion is filed in family court that is heard by a family law commissioner on as little as 14 days notice to the other party.
Due to the minimal legal requirements to be met, the simplified process of filing a motion vs. filing a petition, and the ability to obtain the new child support order within a very short amount of time, a child support adjustment is both much quicker and much less expensive from a fee standpoint.
What is a Child Support Modification?
A child support modification action may change not only those matters addressed in a child support adjustment, but also any other provisions of the child support order such as allocation of dependency exemptions, obligations for health-care coverage, or any other provisions of a child support order.
What is Required to Get a Child Support Modification?
To get a child support modification, you do not have to wait 2 years following entry of the current child support order. However, you must show an unforeseen substantial change in circumstances of the parents or the child. This is known as the “adequate cause threshold”, and proving it means you have shown “adequate cause” to seek the changes requested. A change in income or age of the children is not enough. The only exception to the “adequate cause” requirement is if the modification of child support is filed for the purpose of obtaining post-secondary (or college) child support if the issue is “reserved” in the current order.
In King County, a child support modification requires a trial by affidavit (i.e., a trial limited to written evidence) four months after filing a petition for modification. The court has the ability to modify child support retroactive to the date of filing of the action. Filing a petition for modification of child support requires completing, filing, and then serving mandatory forms to the other party, and receiving a trial schedule.
Child Support Modification Examples:
Some examples that may be a substantial change in circumstances include:
- You have become disabled;
- You have additional children you must now support;
- You have lost your job and cannot find a new one at the same salary;
- The child now spends a significantly greater amount of time with one or the other parent;
- The child has special needs.
Weintraub Law Office has offices in Seattle, Bellevue, and Bothell and represents clients in King, Snohomish, and Pierce County.