It's important to avoid fighting about child support as much as you can. Children who watch their parents fight about paying for children's expenses can grow up to be adults who won't voice their needs because they see those needs as a source of conflict.
This is tough when both households are feeling strapped - Seattle living expenses can really be a burden during a divorce. But luckily new rules in child support make it a lot easier for families to adjust their support as they go. You can now customize solutions that weren't available even a few years ago.
In a traditional divorce, one parent paid one lump sum of child support to the other "primary parent" and the primary parent paid all the child's expenses. Anyone who has a child knows this is not going to work well for long. Does the child support payment cover braces, which are $10,000 and uninsured? Should the parent paying support kick in extra for private school tuition? Or club sports? What happens when your 12 year old wants an Apple Watch? One parent may be able to buy the watch, but who pays the monthly service fee? What if the parent paying support loses their job? Having one support payment sets up future fights as situations change.
You don't have to try to anticipate every expense any longer. Or try to adjust your court forms for every possible variable that could happen (this doesn't work anyway - the court forms are set up so that your choices are mostly limited to checking a box). A few simple hacks make it easier for your family to adjust in the future:
1) Make your child support adjustable at your option. If you check the basic forms for child support, you will only be able to modify support with a petition to the court if there's a 'significant change in circumstances." A job loss could be a significant change in circumstances. But petitioning the court can take months. If you set up a Separation Contract, also known as a Settlement Agreement/CR2A, then you can set up scenarios where you adjust support automatically for job loss, a move to a different state, or other scenarios.
2) Use a joint account for child-related expenses instead of having one parent pay the other support. About 10 years ago, the Washington State Legislature changed the rules to require child support to be allocated between the parents. Both parents owe support to their child now, instead of one parent paying "support" to the other. This still hasn't quite filtered down to many family law attorneys - it's pretty common for attorneys to try to find ways around the allocation rules and their clients generally don't know the difference. But one way to use the "new" allocation guidelines is to put all the money for children's expenses into a joint account. This way there are no surprises, which cuts down on conflict. This also helps your family avoid the dynamic where one parent does all the work to organize the children's activities and school. Most important, planning ahead shows your children that their needs and wants are important to you as a parent. That helps your children adjust to the divorce in a more healthy way.
3) Whether or not you use a joint account, agree ahead of time that you will share all child-related expenses in some categories. Washington State gives you the option to share expenses in the categories of Uninsured Healthcare (braces, therapy, some prescriptions for acne, etc), School, Extra-Curriculars, and "Daycare" (meaning any child care used by both parents - including summer camps but not usually including a nanny).
Call us today for more tips on how to organize your child support so both parents will be comfortable. It's 206-747-3029 and we offer a free consult at Divorce Without Court: Westside Collaborative Law PLLC.