Washington State Child Support Laws and FAQs

Washington Child Support

Here’s what you should know when working through a child support issue in Washington State.

Who Must Pay Child Support in Washington?

Both parents are required to support minor children in Washington.  Typically, the noncustodial parent (the parent who spends less than 50% of the time with the child) pays child support.

The custodial parent (the parent who lives with the child) is responsible for child support too, but Washington child support laws assume that the custodial parent spends money directly on the child.

How is Child Support Determined in Washington?

Washington State uses a child support formula to determine the base monthly child support amount. Factors determining the basic support amount include the number of children, their ages, and the parents’ incomes.

Depending on the variables plugged into the formula, the base child support payment will be anywhere from $200 to $3,500 per month.

The state also has a Quick Estimator you can use to get a general idea of your basic support obligation.

Child support in Washington is sometimes disputed based on the incomes each party plugs into the child support calculator. The child support amount increases as the payor’s net income increases and the recipient’s net income decreases.

Most gross income includes overtime, second job wages, and bonuses. Other types of income are excluded, such as non-recurring income (one-time gifts, prizes, and bonuses). You can find a list of all the excludable types of income by going here.

After determining the parties’ incomes and plugging them into the child support calculator, Washington law requires ‘worksheets’ showing the math. The online calculator automatically generates these child support worksheets, which can be printed.

See “How Do I Ask for Child Support?” for more details on forms to use and processes to follow.

Read More:  Washington State Child Custody Laws and Parenting Plan

Which Agency Handles Child Support in Washington?

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Child Support (DCS) administers child support services in Washington.

Depending on your particular needs, there are many ways to contact DCS for services.  Many of the services are provided in nine field offices throughout the state.

Click here to search for a field office.

You should send all DCS Field Office correspondence to:

Division of Child Support
P.O. Box 11520
Tacoma, Washington 98411-5520

The KIDS line at 1-800-442-KIDS is a phone system that can give you general information about DCS services and how to establish a case. KIDS has information about the date and amount of the last payment and many other answers to common questions. How to use the KIDS Phone System provides more detailed information on using the KIDS Line and the additional services offered.

If you have an established case, call the field office that handles your case.

DCS also operates a Community Relations Unit you can contact if you have difficulty with DCS.

Contact the Community Relations Unit via telephone, mail, or e-mail. Include your name, your relationship to the case, the names of the parties, and the DCS case number and Social Security number of at least one of the parties.

Division of Child Support

Community Relations Unit
P.O. Box 9162
Olympia WA 98507-9162
(800) 457-6202

TDD: (800)-833-6384

Washington State Support Registry (WSSR) handles the intake of new referrals, receipt and disbursement of payments, locate-only services, and interstate communications with other states’ child support agencies. Correspondence and payments should be directed to the appropriate addresses below.

To mail court orders only:

Washington State Support Registry
PO Box 11520
Tacoma, WA 98411-5520
Fax: (360) 664-5209
Paperless/Centralized Fax number 1-866-668-9518

For correspondence only:

Division of Child Support
P.O. Box 11520
Tacoma, Washington 98411-5520
Telephone: (360) 664-5321 or (800) 922-4306
Fax: (360) 664-5303
Paperless/Centralized Fax number 1-866-668-9518

For payments only:

Washington State Support Registry
PO Box 45868
Olympia, WA 98504-5868

To ensure accurate processing, please note your Social Security Number on your payment.

If you have questions about how to make a child support payment, contact:

Division of Child Support

EFT Customer Service
PO Box 9010
Olympia, Washington 98507-9010
Phone  (800) 468-7422
(360) 664-5103
Fax      (360) 664-5109

If you have a question about how to make a payment for a medical insurance premium, contact:

Office of Financial Recovery
Phone  (800) 562-6114
(360) 664-5700

Most child support is paid by withholding wages, however, there are also several other payment options.

Washington State Support Registry
PO Box 45868
Olympia, WA 98504-5868

DCS also works with outside vendors to provide many ways to make a child support payment. The vendors below are private companies that have gone through a careful selection process and have met strict security requirements to contract with us. However, they may have different privacy or security policies than DCS.  These vendors include:


Read More:  Divorce Laws in Washington

How Do I Ask for Child Support?

To receive DCS services, you must fill out a paper enrollment form. You can watch this brief video to start familiarizing yourself with available services.

When you’re ready to apply, follow these steps:

  • Print enrollment paperwork (see a list of forms below).
  • You can also fill out the information at this link, and an application will be mailed to you, or you can call 1-800-457-6202 to have one mailed.  You can also start the process in person at any of the nine DCS field offices throughout the state.
  • Complete the forms to the best of your ability. This video will walk you through the process if you’re having trouble.
  • If you need assistance with your application, contact the Community Relations Unit at 1–800-457-6202 or DCS-CRU@dshs.wa.gov.
  • Sign the forms and submit them to DCS.  You can mail or fax them along with supporting documentation:
    • By fax at 1-866-668-9518
    • By mail to

Division of Child Support
Central Services
P.O. Box 11520
Tacoma, WA 98411

To apply, use these forms:

  • Click here for the 18-078 Enrollment Form (called a Non-assistance Support Enforcement Services application) (English) and the 14-057 Child Support Enforcement Referral (English).

Forms are available in Spanish as well.

  • Click here for the 18-078 Enrollment Form (Spanish) and the 14-057 Child Support Enforcement Referral (Spanish).

Keep the following for your records:

  • 16-072 Non assistance Support Enforcement Information (English)
  • 16-072sp Non assistance Support Enforcement Information (Spanish)

If you want to receive services and already have a child support order, use these forms:

  • 18-078 Enrollment Form (called a Non-assistance Support Enforcement Services application) (English)
  • 14-057 Child Support Enforcement Referral (English)
  • 18-433 Declaration of Support Payments (English)

Forms are also available in Spanish.

  • 18-078sp Enrollment Form (Spanish)
  • 14-057sp Child Support Enforcement Referral (Spanish)
  • 18-433sp Declaration of Support Payments (Spanish)

Keep the following for your records:

  • 16-072 Non-assistance Support Enforcement Information  (English)
  • 16-072sp Non-assistance Support Enforcement Information (Spanish)

If you just want child support worksheets, access them here:

Factors that May Impact Child Support in Washington

Courts can deviate from standard child support amounts if there is an excellent reason to do so.

Most deviations are increases and cover specific costs associated with children, such as the special needs of disabled children (including medical, education, and psychological costs), or other extraordinary expenses that are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

It is also possible to reduce the standard child support amount if the children spend equal time with both parents (though courts usually only do this when the parties have similar incomes).

The base support formula also maxes out for high-income households. Once the parent’s combined net income hits $12,000 a month, the child support formula stops considering any income increase when determining child support.

The Washington State child support statute essentially lists all the possible reasons for deviations, and the court generally will not deviate unless it is for one of the listed reasons. The most important deviations are:

  • Substantial Visitation (Residential Credit). Child support can deviate downward if the non-primary care parent has substantial residential time with the children, meaning more than 90 overnights each year.
  • Other Children. Child support can decrease if the non-primary care parent has additional biological children from different relationships.
  • Very Little Visitation. Child support can shift if the non-primary care parent has little or no residential time with the children.
  • Extraordinary Expenses. In addition to the monthly transfer payment, certain types of special expenses are divided between the parties based on their proportionate shares of income.  These extraordinary expenses can include:
  • Health care costs (premiums and out-of-pocket costs)
  • Daycare (usually limited to work-related daycare)
  • Tuition
  • Transportation costs between the parties’ homes when the parties live long distances from each other
  • Other expenses (i.e., camps and extracurricular activities).

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Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?

Under Washington law, parents must provide health insurance for their children as part of a child support order.  To view the full statute regarding health insurance coverage, go here.

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Establishing Paternity in Washington

There are several ways to establish legal parentage in Washington.

Marriage or a registered domestic partnership.   If a child is born during a marriage or registered domestic partnership, the child is presumed to be the child of that marriage or domestic partnership.

Acknowledgment of Parentage. The Acknowledgment of Parentage is a legal form that establishes a parent-child relationship. Most parents sign the acknowledgment form at a birthing hospital, a birthing clinic, or at home under the care of a midwife shortly after the child is born.

If you do not sign at the hospital, you may obtain the form at your local county health department or any DCS office. If you sign at a DCS office, DCS will file the form and pay the filing fee. You may also call DCS at 800-442-KIDS (5437) to have a form and informational booklet mailed to you at no charge.

An Acknowledgment of Parentage signed by a minor under 18 years old is valid. Minors who sign the acknowledgment form will be held to the same standard as adults.

Either parent who signs an Acknowledgment of Parentage or a Denial of Parentage can change their mind during rescission. You must complete a Rescission of Parentage form and file it with the Department of Health within 60 days after filing the Acknowledgment of Parentage or Denial of Parentage, or before the first court hearing, whichever happens first.

If you decide not to sign the acknowledgment, you may ask the court to establish parentage through a court order.

Court Order. The court may determine if a person is the legal parent of a child. The court may require a genetic test of the birth mother, child, and a man alleged to be the biological father.

The court may require genetic testing to confirm or deny parentage.  A genetic test compares several factors in the DNA of the father, the birth mother, and the child.

The state can often help establish parentage for your child if you apply for services with DCS. If DCS accepts your case, DCS will usually refer your case to a county prosecuting attorney. The county prosecutor acts on behalf of your child and cannot represent you in court or give you legal advice.

Enforcing Washington Child Support Orders

Washington State child support orders often contain provisions stating DSHS, DCS, or the state registry will be the payment intermediary or will take any necessary collection action. If so, you can obtain the agency’s services by providing them with a copy of your order. If not, you can still sign up for collection services by contacting the agency and filling out a few forms.

When you sign up for DSHS child support collection services, all child support (and maintenance, if applicable) must be paid through the agency. The child support division keeps track of exactly how much the obligor has paid you and how much remains outstanding.

DSHS will automatically take steps to collect if the obligor fails to pay child support. Those steps can include wage garnishment, suspending their driver’s license, placing liens on bank accounts and real property, intercepting tax refunds, selling assets to satisfy support debts, and other similar actions.

A motion for contempt is also an option, but it requires significantly more work and resources. It is not advisable to file a motion unless the obligor owes a significant amount of child support in arrears.

A motion for contempt is a powerful tool combined with a motion for “clarification in the alternative.” The motion can result in the opposing party going to jail. If successful, the court usually awards attorney fees and imposes stringent measures that force the opposing party to comply.

A party would file a motion for contempt in the county that issued the order, assuming one of the parties still lives there. Alternatively, you can file in the county where either of the parties lives, so long as they still live in Washington State.

If other states or countries are involved, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) dictates where the motion should occur.

Modifying Washington Child Support Payments

If you have an open case with DCS, you can ask for a review that could change your support order.

You may ask DCS to review your order for modification at any time based on changes that could justify a modification. These might include:

  • You or the other parent have changed jobs
  • Your child’s daycare  or medical costs have changed
  • You’ve had another child since your child support order was created

You may have an Administrative Order if you were served with a Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility by DCS or you had a hearing over the phone with DCS representatives.  If your child support is based on an administrative order, your request for modification must be in writing, or you can call your Support Officer and request a form.  The DCS form to request a modification is called the Petition for Modification-Administrative order (9-280b).

If all parties, including DCS, agree to the modification, it can be resolved with a settlement. If all parties do not agree, a telephone hearing will be held to determine if the case should be modified.

You may have a Superior Court Order, which may have been filed during a divorce or paternity establishment. If your child support is based on a court order, your modification request must go through the county prosecutor’s office.  To request a modification of your court order, you will need to gather recent paystubs, tax return documents, and any other relevant financial records.  You must complete the Confidential Information form, the Financial Declaration, the Child Support Schedule Worksheets, and pages 2-3 of the Child Support Order Review Request (9-741).

If you are unsure what kind of case you have or want more information about modifications, contact DCS and include your email or phone number at DCSMods@dshs.wa.gov or contact your Support Officer at 1-800-442-5437.

Child Support and Taxes

Child support payments are not deductible by the payer or taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.

Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support. However, on your taxes, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent.

Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. Parents can alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.

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When Does Child Support End in Washington?

Generally, there are five ways that child support payments end typically in Washington State:

  • The child turns 18 years of age.
  • The child graduates from high school.
  • The child marries.
  • The child dies.
  • The child had a disability but is now older than 18 and no longer considered disabled.
  • If a child emancipates before 18, payments will also stop.

Support continues typically until the child turns 18 or until the child graduates from high school before they reach 19.

If a child has an ongoing medical disability, you may be required to continue paying child support even after they turn 18.

Washington State allows college expenses to be included in a child support order. If you believe your child will continue to require support expenses beyond high school, you can petition the court for post-secondary support. The court may order that the noncustodial parent support the child for further education like college or vocational classes.

Helpful Resources

Washington Divorce Guide

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