Basics of Divorce in Washington State Part 3 of 3: Child Custody and Support

  • Published
  • By Jocelyn Sullivan
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Staff Judge Advocate
Divorce, or dissolution as it is known in Washington, can be a stressful time for a couple or a family. The Basics of Divorce series is meant to relieve some stress by providing general legal information for those considering a divorce in the state of Washington.

If a divorcing couple has one or more children together, and the children are under the age of 18, then the couple must fill out a parenting plan which the court then approves. If the couple disagrees on the parenting plan, then each spouse may submit a plan to the court. The court then decides the final parenting plan that states:

· Which parent the children will live with the majority of the time, or whether they will live with each parent half of the time;
· How much time the children will spend with the other parent;
· Who will make decisions about the children's schooling, medical care, and other issues; and
· How the parents will resolve future disagreements about the children.

The parenting plan must also state what will happen if one parent relocates to another state; this is especially important if a parent deploys for any period of time or if the parent is issued orders requiring him or her to move. The relocating parent must give the other parent notice before moving. The non-relocating parent then has a right to object to the move and ask the court to change the parenting plan.

In addition to the parenting plan, the court will likely order a child support transfer payment. In Washington, the child support obligation is the amount of money that both parents are expected to allocate to taking care of the children. The child support obligation is the right of the child rather than one parent or the other. A child support transfer payment is usually paid monthly and the amount is based on the children's needs and both parents' income. It's called a transfer payment because one parent is transferring his or her portion of the child support obligation to the other parent. The court calculates the exact amount of the child support transfer payment using a financial worksheet and a chart system which can be found at the Washington Court's website.

In most divorce cases, the residential parent will receive the transfer payment from the non-residential parent. The residential parent is typically the parent with whom the child lives most of the time. Even if the parents each have half the time with the children, one parent may have to pay the other support if there is a big difference in the parents' incomes. A stepparent may also have a legal duty to help support stepchildren until a divorce is final or until there is a court order relieving the stepparent of this obligation.

Washington law does not require the use of an attorney for a divorce; however, an attorney's expertise is highly recommended, especially if large amounts of property are involved.

Although a judge advocate cannot appear in state court on your behalf, you can visit the base legal office for basic advice and more information regarding divorce, as well as other legal issues. We are located in the Wing Headquarters building, Suite 121.  Below are our office hours of operation and services provided:

· Wills for Active Duty Members and Dependents by appointment only: Every Wednesday
· Power of Attorney and Notaries:  Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
· Legal Assistance Walk-ins:  Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

The material in this article represents general legal principles. The law is continually changing. Although the information in this article was current as of the date it was drafted, some provisions may have changed. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.

To make an appointment, call the Legal Office at 509-247-2838.