Modifying a child support order in Washington

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2023 | Divorce

Modifying a child support order is a little more complicated in Washington than it is in many other states. That is because most states have one process and a single set of paperwork, but Washington does things differently. Noncustodial parents in the Evergreen State can be required to pay child support by either administrative orders or court orders, and each type of order has its own modification process. Child support modifications are usually granted when the financial situation of the noncustodial parent or the needs of the child have changed significantly.

Administrative orders

When child support is established by an administrative order, requests for modifications must be made in writing. The necessary form is called Petition for Modification-Administrative Order, and it can be downloaded from the Division of Child Support page on the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services website. DCS support officers can also provide the necessary paperwork. After the form is submitted, the case will be assigned to the DCS hearings unit. If the request is contested, a telephone hearing is held to resolve the matter.

Court orders

Requests to modify child support court orders are handled by county prosecutors. Petitioning parties must send the DCS a completed a Child Support Order Review Request form along with relevant financial documents like recent paystubs, tax returns and bank statements. If the DCS determines that the petition meets the modification criteria, the case will be assigned to a county prosecutor. County prosecutors do not provide legal advice or advocate on behalf of either party, but they do help parents as the case works its way through the court system.

The needs of the child

Child support is ordered to ensure that the needs of children are met. This is very important, which is why modification requests are scrutinized closely. If noncustodial parents intentionally harm themselves financially by avoiding work or taking only low-paying jobs, their requests are unlikely to be reviewed favorably. However, if a change in circumstances is legitimate and a noncustodial parent is no longer able to meet their child support obligation, a modification request will usually be granted.