Determining Gross Monthly Income for Child Support Calculations

Jul 2015 | Family Law

In Washington, child support payments are calculated based on a table that uses the combined net incomes of the parents along with the number and ages of the parents’ children. Income includes wages, commissions, deferred compensation, dividends, interest, trust income, severance pay, annuities, capital gains, retirement benefits, worker’s compensation, unemployment benefits, spousal maintenance, bonuses, social security benefits, disability benefits, and income from rent, royalties, contracts, and business ownership. The court also weighs the effect of a parent whose employment is only part-time.

When the court determines that a parent is “voluntarily” unemployed or underemployed, the court must impute income to the parent based on:

  1. Full-time earnings at the current rate of pay (if the parent is working part time);
  2. Full-time earnings at a past rate of pay;
  3. Full-time earnings at minimum wage if the parent is recently coming off public assistance, disabled assistance benefits, pregnant women assistance benefits, essential needs and housing support, supplemental security income, or disability, has recently been released from incarceration, or is a high school student; or
  4. Median net monthly income of year-round full-time workers.

In determining whether a parent is voluntarily underemployed or voluntarily unemployed, the Court will consider a parent’s work history, education, health, and age, or any other relevant factors. Income shall not be imputed for an unemployable parent.

If a parent is gainfully employed on a full-time basis (meaning the parent is receiving compensation for the time s/he works), the Court will not impute income to that parent unless the court finds that the parent is purposely underemployed to reduce the parent’s child support obligation.

In sum, the general rules are:

  • If a parent is working full time, then his / her actual income will be used to calculate child support.
  • If a parent is working part time, the Court will first determine if that parent is capable of working full time, and if so, then the Court will calculate what his / her full-time income would be based on the part-time rate of pay and use the full-time income to calculate child support.
  • If the parent is not working at all, the Court will first determine if that parent is capable of working, and if so, then the Court will use the parent’s past history of earnings if there is evidence of this available, or use minimum wage under certain circumstances, or use the median income for a person of the parent’s age if there is no record of his / her past earnings.
  • After calculation of gross income, then the Court must determine the appropriate deductions to determine the parent’s net income to use in the child support worksheets.

If you have questions about parental rights or other family law issues, contact attorneys Theresa Ahern or Mary Coleman at Curran Law Firm, P.S.—Experienced, dedicated, and responsive legal representation located in South King County.