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Child Support & Parenting Plans

Child Support & Parenting Plans

Mom Baby 2

You may no longer be with the other parent of your baby. Maybe you broke up before the baby was born, or sometime later. If so, you will need to figure out how each of you is going to be involved in your baby’s life. After figuring out issues of paternity, you may be wondering about child support and parenting plans.

Do Both Parents Have to Care for Their Child?

Yes. Parents legally must care for their children physically, emotionally, and financially. If you are the mom, your legal duties start when your baby is born. If you are the dad, these duties start when the law sees you as the legal father. If you do not want to be involved in your baby’s life, whether you are the mom or the dad, you are still required to provide financial support for your baby.

What Exactly Is Child Support?

Child support is money paid by a parent to the person who is taking care of their child (usually the other parent) to help support the child. Child support is used to provide your child with clothes, food, medical care, a place to live, and child care if needed.

How Much Is Child Support?

A court will decide how much child support will be paid. The amount is based on many things, including both parents’ incomes, whether either parent is paying for child care or health insurance, how much time your child spends with each parent, and a formula called the Washington State Child Support Schedule. If you have an idea of both parents’ income, you can use this child support calculator to help estimate your financial responsibility.

How Do I Collect Child Support?

You can either make an agreement with your child’s other parent about paying child support, or you can ask the Division of Child Support (DCS) for help collecting child support. Their services are usually free. Contact them at 1-800-457-6202.

What Exactly Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a legal document, approved in court, that outlines which parent your child will live with, the amount of time your child will spend with each parent, which parent will make major decisions about your child, and how you and your child’s other parent will work out major disagreements.

How Do I Form a Parenting Plan?

You can present a parenting plan when you are in court for another reason—for example, to establish paternity or change child custody. You may file the paperwork yourself. The court will usually approve a parenting plan that both parents agree on. If you and your child’s other parent disagree, the court will decide on the parenting plan after a hearing or a trial.

For help making important decisions, talk to an adult you trust.

Where Can I Find Help?

Talk to an adult you trust. You might discuss your decisions with a parent, teacher, coach, or counselor at school. You can also call the experts in the field of paternity and child support for help: the Division of Child Support (DCS) at 1-800-457-6202.

Learn More

Washington Law Help has lots of good legal information and resources about parenting plans.

The CLEAR Hotline can help you find an attorney if you can't afford one.

Your county may have free help for family law issues. For example, if you live in King County learn about their family court service.

This California site also has good information, but to learn how Washington’s laws might be different talk to the Division of Child Support or an attorney. Read about child support, parenting plans, and parents' duties and rights.