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Washington Child Support Modification

When you pay child support in Washington, the amount is based on a calculation that uses both parents' monthly income as a determining factor, as well as the number and ages of the children involved. The court uses the state guidelines to arrive at the figure, which is presumed correct.

However, there are times when the child support order is already in place, but the obligation no longer reflects the amount that should be paid because conditions have changed. Suppose a parent has been downsized and has taken a lesser-paying job or they have to act as a caregiver for an ailing parent. The court does take these changes in consideration in terms of child support obligations and usually requires the change of circumstances to modify support.

But the child support modification doesn't happen automatically except that the law provides for a review and possible adjustment every two years. If two years have passed from the date of the entry of the order or since the last modification (whichever is most recent), it may be adjusted without showing a substantially changed circumstance and is based on changes in income or state guidelines.

In Washington, either parent can modify an existing child support order. You can modify it by taking two different actions: either file a motion for adjustment of child support or submit a petition to modify child support. Both procedures have specific requirements and you can file one or another, depending on the specific situation.

Washington Child Support Modification Overview

Because the statutes contain detailed explanations, the most accurate interpretation of the law comes from an attorney. However, understanding the law when it's presented in readable terms is something that anyone can appreciate. The chart below provides an overview of the law that governs Washington's child support modification.


Washington Revised Code:

  • Section 26.09.170 (modification of decree for maintenance or support, property disposition)
  • Section 26.19.075 (standards for deviation from the standard calculation)


Reasons Used to Modify Child Support


The following are some examples of reasons that can be used to modify a child support order:

  • Changes in income of one or both parents;
  • Changes in residential schedule;
  • The age of the children;
  • The number of children in the household (including children from previous relationships);
  • Medical insurance costs; and
  • Medical expenses.

Motion for Adjustment of Child Support

You can file this if the following conditions apply:

  • If it's been 2 years since the initial order; and
  • Either your or the other parent's income has change; or
  • It's been at least 1 years and the child turned 12 and changed age category.

Petition to Modify Child Support Order

One year after the initial child support order, you can file this if the following conditions apply:

  • The payments cause a severe financial hardship;
  • The child turned 18, but hasn't completed high school; or
  • There is a drastic change in economic circumstances.

Initial child support order is in place less than a year only if the petitioning parent can show proof of a substantial change in circumstances.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Washington Child Support Modification: Related Resources

Connect with an Attorney for Help with Child Support Modification

Although your child is entitled to be financially supported, it should also be in line with the parents' financial situation. If you need help with a child support modification, connect with a skilled Washington child support attorney for help.

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