How does Washington law deal with child support in cases involving self-employed parents?

Understanding Child Support for Self-Employed Parents in Washington

In Washington State, child support matters are governed by the principle that both parents are obligated to contribute to the financial support of their children. This responsibility extends to self-employed parents, who may face unique challenges in determining and calculating appropriate child support payments.

Child support calculations are typically based on the Washington State Child Support Schedule, which considers the income of both parents. However, when a parent is self-employed, accurately determining their income can be more complex due to variable business revenue, deductions, and the nature of self-employment taxes.

Determining Income for Self-Employed Parents

For self-employed parents, 'income' includes gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to produce income. It's important that these expenses are scrutinized carefully to ensure they are legitimate business expenditures and not personal expenses disguised as business costs. The court may reference tax returns, profit and loss statements, and other financial documents to assess true income.

In a landmark case, In re the Marriage of Johnson, the Washington Supreme Court highlighted the importance of distinguishing between business investments that do not reduce income available for support (such as asset acquisitions) and operational expenses that do. This distinction prevents a self-employed parent from artificially lowering their income by categorizing personal expenses as business deductions.

Modifying Child Support Orders

If a self-employed parent's income significantly changes, either parent can request a modification of the child support order. The court will examine whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances that justifies an adjustment. For instance, if a parent's business has either increased or decreased profits, this could be grounds for modification.

Enforcement Challenges

Enforcing child support orders can be more challenging when dealing with self-employed parents because of the ease with which they can manipulate their reported income and assets. Washington law empowers enforcement agencies to employ various methods to collect child support, including liens on property and professional licenses, to ensure compliance.

In conclusion, while determining and enforcing child support from self-employed parents in Washington involves additional scrutiny and challenges, the law is designed to ensure that all children receive fair financial support from both parents. Legal professionals may assist in navigating these complexities to protect children's interests.