By clicking the link in this sentence you can download an example child support order and worksheet from Washington State Superior Court. Washington offers a free template for child support orders and worksheets, but many pro se (unrepresented) parties are unsure what to write in the blanks and which boxes to check. The example should help.
For help in determining the AMOUNT of child support and completing the worksheets (i.e., doing the math), see our firm’s article on Calculating Child Support in WA: The Basics.
The remainder of this article answers the most common questions people have when completing each section of the child support order template (CSOT).
Section 1 of CSOT: Use this section to indicate whether the opposing party already owes money on back child support. Back support is money owing for previous months or years. If you are not sure whether any back support is owed or how much, check “no money judgment” and MAKE SURE to select the first box in section 22 of the CSOT. The first box in section 22 states “this order does not address past due amounts”.
Section 2 of CSOT: Indicate whether the order is temporary or final. A temporary order is one entered during the pendency of a family law case. Family law cases often take about a year between the date of petition and the date of finalization. Either party can request a temporary order so the primary care parent can support the children during that year (sometimes more than a year).
By contrast, a final child support order is one entered at the end of a family law case, such as when the divorce decree is signed.
Sections 3 & 4 of CSOT: Nothing to check or fill in.
Section 5 of SCOT: Fill in each party’s net monthly income. A party’s net monthly income comes from line 3 of the worksheets.
State whether the income is imputed or actual. Imputed means the parent does not actually make this amount of money, but the court deems the person to have this income anyway. A person is imputed income if he or she is voluntarily under employed or voluntarily unemployed. Each party is expected to work to their full capacity. For more on this, see our article on calculating child support, referenced earlier.
Section 6 of SCOT: If a party’s income is imputed, indicate why and how. Again, see our article on calculating child support for more on this topic.
Section 7 of SCOT: Usually you will want to select “does not apply”. The concepts in this section of the child support order go beyond the scope of a simple self-help article, unfortunately. If you feel one of the other boxes might apply to you, you should probably seek paid assistance. If you cannot afford an attorney, see our firm’s article on Can’t Afford a Lawyer for My Divorce. The article describes low-cost resources available for family law matters.
Section 8 of SCOT: Usually you will want to check “all children living together”. Courts almost always require the parties’ children to be on the same residential schedule, meaning they live with the same parent at the same time.
Occasionally, however, judges will allow one or more children to live predominately with one parent and another child to live primarily with the other parent if the parties agree to this and can articulate why it would be in the best interest of the children. If the children do not live together, it can lead to a complicated child support calculation that exceeds the scope of this article.
Section 9 of SCOT: Usually check “no deviation”. This means the child support does not deviate from the standard transfer calculation. If you are seeking a deviation, you probably need additional assistance in preparing your order.
Section 10 of SCOT: Usually check the first box, not the last one (see section 8 about children residing together).
In the lines following the first box, state the amount of child support the obligor is paying for each child. To calculate this, multiply the cost of supporting each child (line 5 of worksheets) by the obligor’s proportionate share of the former family income (line 6 of worksheets). For example, if the worksheets estimate it will cost $1,000 per month to raise little Johny Jr., and the obligor parent makes 60% of the former family income, the obligor will is required to pay $600 per month towards Johny’s support ($1,000 X 60% = $600). If there are extraordinary expenses (see line 14 of worksheets), tack on each child’s share. For example, if the obligor’s share of extraordinary expenses (line 14 of worksheets) is $100 and there are two children, Johny Jr.’s share of support would be $50 higher than our previous calculation ($100 in extraordinary expenses / 2 children = $50 more per child). Thus the total for Johny Jr. would be $650.
If you like, you can include an automatic child support increase if a child is turning 12 years old in the near future. To do this, you will need to include two attached worksheets – one for the present and another showing the calculations for when the child reaches age 12.
Section 11 of SCOT: Self-explanatory for most situations.
Section 12 of SCOT: Usually select “does not apply”. Only select one of the other boxes if the parties argue whether support should be incrementally increased. A support order can be incrementally increased if there was a previous support order and this new order effects an increase of more than 30% per month.
Section 13 of SCOT: Almost always select the first box.
Section 14 of SCOT: Usually select the first box, indicating DCS will act as the payment intermediary. DCS will then keep track of how much support the obligor has paid. Having DCS keep track generally works better for both parties, because it decreases the likelihood of them fighting in court over how much was paid.
Section 15 of SCOT: The options are self-explanatory for most situations. If DCS is allowed to withhold income, it means DCS will garnish the child support directly from the obligor’s paycheck. Often this works well for both parties, though some obligors might feel embarrassed by it.
Section 16 of SCOT: Almost always select the first box for a temporary order or the second box for a final order.
Section 17 of SCOT: Almost always select the first box. For more information on post-secondary support, see our article entitled Post-Secondary Support: Child Support for College.
Section 18 of SCOT: Almost always write in language dividing the tax exemptions evenly between the parents. For example, the following language is typical for a child support order involving three children:
“While three children may be claimed, the mother shall claim two children in even numbered tax years and one child in odd numbered tax years, and the father shall claim one child in even numbered tax years and two children in odd numbered tax years. While two children may be claimed, each parent shall claim one. Thereafter the parents shall alternate claiming the remaining child, with the mother claiming the exemption in odd numbered tax years and the father claiming the exemption in even numbered tax years.”
Section 19 of SCOT: Often the court selects the first box for temporary orders, because it is quick and easily.
Otherwise the court will name who will pay the children’s health insurance premium. The other parent then reimburses his or her proportionate share of the premium via an adjustment on the worksheets (lines 10 and 14 of the worksheets), which alters the standard transfer payment. See our article on calculating child support for more information on this. It sounds more complicated than it is. Just fill in the blanks on the state’s child support calculator and it will create the worksheets for you. See our article on calculating child support for a more complete explanation.
Section 20 of SCOT: Nothing to check or fill in.
Section 21 of SCOT: Usually the following costs are divided between the parties based upon their proportionate shares of income: uninsured medical expense, day care expenses (if work related), tuition, and long-distance transportation between the parents’ homes. The parties’ proportionate shares of income are listed on line 6 of the worksheets.
Section 22: Self-explanatory in most situations. If you are unsure whether the opposing party owes you past-due support or how much, MAKE SURE you select the first box.
Section 23: Almost always select the first box.
Section 24: Usually leave blank.
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