What is Child Support? What does it cover and how is it calculated?

Whether you’re the primary custodial parent or you share custody, it is important to be prepared for and understand the Order of Child Support. Regardless of which parent has majority custody of the children, both parents are financially responsible for the basic daily needs of children (food, shelter, clothing).

Common Expenses That Could Be Included in a Child Support Agreement

Courts determine the amount of basic child support obligation using both parents’ incomes and the Washington State Child Support Schedule. Typically, one parent makes child support payments to the other parent. This calculation is established by the State. Monthly Child Support payments are intended to support the financially disadvantaged spouse in paying for their child / children’s meals, housing, clothing, utilities, and other basic needs.

Washington State Child Support includes reasonable expenses that parents share. These expenses include, but are not limited to:


Parents should carefully record the monthly cost of each child’s health insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, medical expenses not covered by insurance, prescriptions, dental care, and special or ongoing treatment (such as orthodontia, psychotherapy, physical rehabilitation, etc.).


A working custodial parent cannot bear the total cost of daycare; this expense in included in the amount of Child Support ordered.


Educational expenses can range from occasional field trips and transportation costs to tutoring, standardized testing, college prep courses and university application fees.

Transportation Expenses

Parents who live a long distance from one another typically share the cost of any visitation-related travel expenses.

Expenses for Extracurricular Events, Interests and Activities

Special expenditures, such as the cost of extra-curricular activities may be considered when calculating child support. Each parent may have to pay their share of art classes, music lessons, swimming lessons, sports camps or equipment fees, driver’s education courses, etc.

What about Additional Expenses?

Miscellaneous school expenses are shared by the parents in the same proportion as the basic Child Support obligation. If one parent wants the child / children to attend private school, have weekly piano lessons, or go to a more expensive daycare, is the other parent forced to support the cost?

Generally, parents are expected to share the costs of additional expenses incurred by their children. Additional expenses included in the Child Support order need to be specified and agreed upon in advance of the expense being incurred.

As children age, their needs and expenses change. A young child may need new clothing, while a teenager may have automobile insurance premiums, need specialized sports equipment, plane tickets to visit prospective colleges, etc. Parents work together to determine how to share these additional costs as they arise.

Planning Ahead for Success

Child support payments end when a child turns 18 or when the child graduates from high school (whichever is later). Most parents share the cost of post-secondary support, supporting their children in university or vocational training. 

Family law is an emotional, stressful, and chaotic process. Mediation provides a platform to discuss your child’s interests and needs, your family’s values, and to discuss each parent’s ability to support your child / children. To avoid problems later, it is essential to provide an accurate estimate of your child’s expenses and needs.

Complex court forms and procedures increase stress for families in dissolution. This is all new to most people and emotions often run high! Our team carefully guides parties through the process, providing each parent with a sounding board for questions and strategic support. How will you make financial decisions in a way that supports your children and is fair to both parties? With extensive experience, dedicated leadership, and a depth of resources, we are dedicated to setting up two households up for cooperation and success.

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Whether you’re contemplating a divorce, have already started the process, or are far into the proceedings, do you wish you had someone to share with you the inside scoop on how to save money, time, and emotional energy on your divorce?

Our team is available for Support On-Demand to discuss the many scenarios, options, and implications of separation or divorce, via telephone or videoconference during this time. Feel free to get in touch with us; we are here for you!

Leah Hill Email Signature | Divorce Strategies NW

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