Splitting Time, Splitting Costs: Crunching the Numbers on Child Support

Once upon a recent time, in a quiet suburb, there lived two parents, Sarah and John, who had recently decided to go their separate ways after a decade of marriage. They shared two wonderful children, Emma, aged 10, and Max, aged 7. Sarah and John were determined to ensure that their separation impacted their children as minimally as possible. They agreed on a 50/50 custody arrangement, believing it to be in the best interest of Emma and Max to have equal time with both parents.

However, a critical question arose that they hadn’t fully anticipated: “Who will pay child support?” They both had stable jobs, but John’s career as a software engineer meant he earned more than Sarah, who was a school teacher.

Initially, Sarah and John assumed that no child support would be needed since they shared custody equally. However, they found out in Washington you cannot be divorced without addressing child support. Sarah and John also realized maintaining two homes with equal living standards for the children was more challenging than they expected.

After a few months of trying to manage on their own, John decided to seek legal advice to understand better how child support could be handled in their situation. John and Sarah both consulted a family law legal technician to help them navigate their concerns without escalating to contentious disputes.

What Sarah and John discovered, much like many divorcing couples in Washington, despite their equal custody arrangement, child support calculations still considered the income disparity between them. This ensured Emma and Max would have a consistent quality of life, regardless of whose house they were at.

With a family law mediator, Sarah and John negotiated an agreement which accounted for child support including any deviation as well as extra-curricular and education fees. . This agreement was carefully documented with the help of their mediator, ensuring clarity and fairness.

This story of Sarah and John highlight misconceptions or misunderstandings that may occur when parties are separating with regards to child support. In Washington, parties must address the issue of child support for final orders to be issued. In Washington, determination of child support is in large part governed by math principles.

Determining Who Will Pay Child Support

Child support obligations will be based on several factors including the income of both parents, the needs of the child, and the custody arrangement. Each state has its own guidelines and formulas to calculate child support, which can typically be accessed through local family law courts.


The Impact of 50/50 Custody on Child Support

50/50 custody refers to a situation where both parents share equal responsibility for the physical and legal care of their children. However, even with 50/50 custody, one parent may still be required to pay child support. The key factor here is the relative income of each parent. If one parent earns significantly more than the other, they may be required to make child support payments to ensure that the children experience a similar standard of living in both households.  Further a deviation based on residential time is discretionary.  Additional information about the living expenses of both parties as well as additional factors may be required to prove the request for deviation.

How Child Support is Calculated with 50/50 Custody

Calculating child support in a 50/50 custody arrangement is calculated the same as other child support orders.

  1. Determine Each Parent’s Income: This includes wages, salaries, bonuses, and other forms of income as well as allowed deductions such as taxes, pension payments or union dues.
  2. Adjust for Additional Expenses: This may include health insurance, educational costs, and extra-curricular expenses.
  3. Apply State Guidelines: Each state has specific formulas that take into account the custody arrangement and each parent’s financial contribution towards the child’s needs.

In many cases, even with equal custody, the higher-earning parent will pay child support to the lower-earning parent. This ensures that the child’s living conditions are equitable in both homes.

Modifying Child Support 

Life circumstances change, and child support orders can be modified to reflect significant changes in a parent’s income, the child’s needs, or the custody arrangement. Parents can request a review of the child support order if they believe a modification is necessary due to a substantial change of circumstances or at least two years have passed since entry of the order.


“Who will pay child support?” is a question with many variables, especially in cases of 50/50 custody. It’s important for parents to understand that child support is designed to balance the children’s needs with the parents’ ability to pay. For any specific concerns or legal advice, it’s advisable to consult with a family law attorney who can provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.

This post is not legal advice – it is general information only.  For those seeking assistance with family law matters or mediation services, our firm is here to help. We offer guidance and compassionate support to ensure that your children’s best interests are always at the forefront of our efforts. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you through your child support and custody challenges.


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