Picture of someone learning what she should know about a child support order in Washington State

Your Child Support Order – What You Should Know

Samuel K. Darling, Divorce & Business Lawyer at Genesis Law Firm's headquarters in Everett, WA

by Samuel K. Darling, Divorce Lawyer at Genesis Law Firm

This is the third installment in our three-part video series on “What You Should Know AFTER Your Divorce.” Today’s video’s topic: “Your Child Support Order.” For those who who would prefer to read rather than watch, see below for a video transcript.

Enhanced Video Transcript:


Hello and welcome to the third and final video in our three-part series on What You Should Know AFTER Your Divorce. The topic of this video is your child support order. So let’s get into what you should know.

One: DCS’s Many Names

First, DCS is a very commonly involved entity with respect to child support issues. DCS stands for Division of Child Support Services. It’s a part of DSHS, which stands for Department of Social and Health Services. These terms are all used interchangeably and they all refer to essentially the same entity, DCS. So DCS, DSHS, Division of Child Support Services, and Department of Social and Health Services all essentially get used to mean the same thing.

Two: Pay the Right Person/Entity

The second thing you should know about your child support order, if you are the obligor, meaning the person paying child support, it’s important that you pay to the right entity or person. If your child support order says that you’re supposed to pay to DCS, then you must pay DCS. Don’t pay the opposing party. If you pay the opposing party directly, it may be that you don’t get credit for your payment.

Three: DCS’s Collection Roles

The third thing you should know about your child support order, DCS can play a couple different collection roles in the case. One is that DCS can act as the payment only intermediary. Payments are made by the obligor to DCS, DCS records the payments and then submits the payments on to the party who’s supposed to receive them. The other role DCS can play is as the collection and enforcement agent. In that role, DCS not only acts as the intermediary for the payment, but DCS can also take actions to ensure that the payments are actually made. So if payments aren’t made on time, DCS can do things like garnish wages, suspend a person’s drivers license, and take court action against the person who’s not paying.

Four: Choosing DCS Collection AFTER Entry of Your Order

The fourth thing you should know, if you are the obligee, you can choose DCS collection or enforcement at any time. Even if the DCS collection and enforcement box was not checked in your child support order, you can still, at any time, contact DCS and request those services. There are several benefits to DCS acting as the collection and enforcement agent. A) It means you have an independent entity keeping track of what payments were made. B) DCS can take most of the same collection actions as an attorney would, and C) DCS can take those actions without it costing you very much. An attorney might cost several thousand dollars for a collection action, whereas DCS only charges $25 per year for it’s collection and enforcement services.

Five: Motions for Contempt

The fifth thing you should know about your child support order, if you want to collect on your own, meaning not through DCS, the proper means is what’s called a “motion for contempt.” A motion for contempt can be very powerful because the opposing party can actually be put in jail for non-payment.

Six: Disputes Over Implementation, Such as Clarification of Vague Terms

Number 6, if there is a dispute over implementation of the child support order, you can take that to DCS. DCS can do it very inexpensively. It’s all part of that 25 per year charge and usually, attorneys aren’t involved so you save money there as well. You can also take arguments over child support to court. The court’s authority is higher than that of DCS. So the court’s decision will govern over a DCS decision. If you lose in a DCS tribunal, an administrative proceeding, you can then take it to court and the court order will take precedence.

Seven: Standard Transfer Payment

The seventh thing you should know, standard transfer payment means the amount that the obligor is required to pay to the obligee every single month. It’s a base amount, though sometimes the obligor will actually have to pay more than that.

Eight: Extraordinary Expenses

Number eight, extraordinary expenses are amounts that the obligor is required to pay above and beyond the standard transfer amount. These extraordinary expenses include things like: daycare, long distance transportation expenses between the parties’ households, tuition, and healthcare costs. As you’ll see in the child support order, these extraordinary expenses are divided between the parties based upon their proportionate shares of income. And I should note that long distance transportation expenses usually means things like flights to and from the parties’ homes, and perhaps hotels or maybe rental cars.

Nine: Unilaterally Making Joint Decisions

Number nine, if the opposing party unilaterally incurs an expense for something that was supposed to be a joint decision, the court usually won’t require that you pay your proportionate share of that, even if it was an extraordinary expense. The classic example is that the parenting plan makes things like major medical decisions a joint decision between the parties. If the opposing party then decides to make a non-emergency medical decision that costs a lot of money, you may not have to pay your proportionate share.

Ten: Adjusting or Modifying Your Order

Number 10, your child support order can be adjusted or modified if it has been at least 2 years since the entry of the order or there’s been a substantial change in circumstances. To adjust or modify, you need to file a request with the court. DCS can actually help you with that.

Eleven: Post-Secondary Support

Number 11, post-secondary support is for the years beyond high school, often times for college. In the typical child support order, post-secondary expenses are reserved for a later Court decision. If you would like post-secondary support, it’s very important that you file at the appropriate time. Usually you’ll file after your child has been accepted by a college, so maybe in your child’s junior year of high school, but make sure that you file that request before the latter of your child’s 18th birthday or the time he or she graduates from high school. If you don’t file your request for post-secondary support by the latter end of those two time frames, you’ll absolutely and forever lose your right to request post-secondary support for that child.

Twelve: Automatic Reduction

Last but not least, number 12: If you have multiple children and one of them graduates from high school, the child support amount should automatically drop down to a new level.

That’s it! Our firm believes in making quality legal information available for free online. For more, click the resources tab in the upper right corner of this page. Or call 866-631-0028 to speak with someone at our firm. From all of us at Genesis, good luck with your family law matter.

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