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Modifying an order for child support in Washington

In any divorce involving minor children, financial support for the children is likely to be one of the most contentious issues. If the spouses cannot agree on the amount and frequency of child support payments, the judge will issue an order resolving the dispute. While an initial order may work out for a while, sometimes a person's life circumstances change. So, what happens when one or both parties in Washington want to modify an existing child support order?

As with most family law disputes, the parties should attempt to negotiate an agreement that can be presented to the court for approval. If such an agreement is out of reach, the parties must resort to the procedures spelled out by state statutes. The procedure is intended to be efficient and speedy, but occasionally, the issues require a deeper analysis than the mere review of financial records by the court.

The party requesting the modification must serve on the other party a petition and worksheets that describe the requested change and the reasons why it should be granted. The worksheets are a series of questions and charts designed by the court administrator that set out the financial situation of that party. The necessary information includes living expenses, income, savings, tax obligations, and similar matters. The responding party has 20 days to respond if the papers are served within the state; otherwise, the time for answer is 60 days. Unless one of the parties requests an oral hearing, the court will review the petition and relevant evidence, and issue an order without taking testimony. The party seeking an oral hearing must show "extraordinary features" of the case that necessitate an oral hearing.

Persuading a judge to modify an order for child support can be a difficult and complex task. It is important that no crucial step is overlooked. Therefore, those wishing to modify a child support order in Washington will want to make sure they understand all that is expected of them before proceeding.