In the past, the common divorce arrangement involved one parent having primary custody, with the other having visitation rights and paying child support. 

Today, there’s a shift towards more balanced 50/50 parenting plans, where each parent has the children half the time. Despite the equal sharing, it’s a misconception that neither parent owes child support. This realization can be surprising, but consulting with an experienced child custody lawyer can help plan for a fair outcome that considers the well-being of both parents and children. 


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Understanding Child Support in Washington State

Child support is a crucial aspect of family law, ensuring that both parents contribute to the financial well-being of their children after a divorce or separation. In Washington State, child support calculations are based on specific guidelines, and the concept of 50-50 custody doesn’t necessarily mean zero support payments. In this blog, we’ll explore how child support is calculated in Washington State and debunk the common misconception surrounding 50-50 custody arrangements.


First, Let’s Debunk A Myth:

While it’s true that 50-50 custody arrangements aim to provide a balanced and equitable parenting environment, child support may still be applicable. The court considers the financial needs of the child, and if there’s a significant income disparity between the parents, child support payments may be ordered to maintain the child’s standard of living in both households.


What is the Income Shares Model?


Washington State utilizes a set of guidelines to determine child support payments. The Washington State Child Support Schedule takes into account various factors, including the income of both parents, the number of children involved, and any additional expenses such as healthcare and childcare. The state follows an income shares model, where both parents’ incomes are considered to calculate the total child support obligation. Each parent is then responsible for a percentage of the total based on their income contribution. 


Child support calculations primarily depend on the income of each parent. The court considers the gross income, which includes wages, bonuses, investments, and other financial resources. The income shares model ensures that both parents contribute proportionally to their financial abilities.

While the guidelines provide a standard calculation, certain circumstances may warrant deviations. Factors such as extraordinary medical expenses, educational needs, or the child’s unique requirements may be considered by the court to adjust the support amount.


The Misconception of 50-50 Custody Factor 


Many parents mistakenly believe that in a 50-50 custody arrangement, neither party is required to pay child support. However, Washington State’s child support guidelines don’t operate on a strict time-share basis. Even in cases of equal parenting time, the court may still assess child support based on the income of both parents and additional factors.


Children are supposed to benefit from the resources of both parents. Even if residential time was equal, it does not mean there could be a zero child support amount. Washington State uses the income shares model, and the Washington State Child Support Guidelines and schedules will produce a transfer payment when incomes are different. 

The misconception that 50-50 custody automatically means zero child support payments can lead to misunderstandings and legal challenges. Parents need to be aware of the guidelines and work with legal professionals to ensure fair and just child support arrangements that prioritize the well-being of their children. Soriano Law LLC is experienced in these cases, contact us for a FREE consultation now! Call us at (360) 249-6174.