Is there a general formula for determining alimony and child support?

UPDATED: Aug 27, 2011

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Is there a general formula for determining alimony and child support?

I am researching on behalf of my sister who is trying to get a general idea of how much support she would get from her husband after a divorce. They have 4 children, ages 15, 12, 7, and 6. Her husband makes approximately $52,000 and she is currently making around $14,000 per year.

Asked on August 27, 2011 Washington


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In the state of Washington a court can order alimony which is now called  "maintenance" or "spousal support" to either spouse.  It is up to the court whether or not  to award a spouse support.  They consider various things (called factors) such as:

- Financial resources and abilities of each spouse to meet their needs
- Marriage length
- Standard of living established during the marriage
- Time a spouse may need to retrain or otherwise find employment
- Age and physical and emotional condition of the recipient
- The ability of the paying spouse to provide support while meeting his or her needs

A court can order temporary support while the divorce is pending. Most support is ordered for a set time period. Once ordered, it can be modified based on a "substantial change in circumstances."

Now, child support is based on the income and assets of both parents, and parents must provide a fair share of support. Each state has their own adopted model (income shares model, etc.) and there are generally worksheets used and support tables.  I will try and give you a link to that to have her get an idea. Now, the court does not have to use the child support table if there are certain factors that they think are relevant, such as:

- Parents' income sources that aren't received on a regular basis, such as bonuses or overtime wages
- Income from another adult in the household, such as a new spouse or domestic partner
- Gifts
- A child's extraordinary income
- High debt or expenses
- Duty to support children from other relationships

If it's been two years since the entry or change to your child support order, you can seek modification based on a change in a parent's income or in the child support tables without showing a "substantial change of circumstances." You can seek a change at any time based on a substantial change of circumstances, such as a change in your child's needs. A parent's job loss isn't always a substantial change and may not warrant a child support order modification.

Here are the worksheets.  Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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