Blended Family Case

UNDERSTANDING THE BLENDED FAMILY REPORT

 

The Blended Family Report was developed by the Child Support Commission in response to the need to provide a logical deviation in the transfer payments amount when one or both of the parents also support other children, either inside or outside their home. Blended families occur in two situations: 1) When a parent's remarriage results in additional children with a second spouse. 2) When parties marry, bringing children from other relationships together into a new marriage.

 

The publication of the Blended Family Report produced quite a bit of controversy. Several of the child support commissioners dissented to the report. One commissioner, Michael Lacasse, produced an alternative formula, which is published in the official Report. (Due to ambiguities in the formula, we were unable to implement the Lacasse Formula.)

 

(Editorís Note: Effective September 29, 1993, The Office of Support Enforcement (now SED) promulgated their own formula, called the Whole Family Method, and is included in SupportCalc. After carefully analyzing both methods, we have concluded that the Whole Family Method is more accurate. We recommend that you use the Whole Family Method instead of the Blended Family Formula for all cases involving blended families, and reserve the Blended Family report only for reference.)

 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING THE BLENDED FAMILY FORMULA

 

The Blended Family Formula simply asks for two types of information: 1) The name(s) of the other child(ren) who are supported by either parent, and 2) Which parent is responsible for each of the other child(ren). SupportCalc then automatically adds the child(ren) for whom you are currently determining support, and does all necessary calculations.

 

 

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Below is the entire text of the Blended Family Report, followed by part of an OSE memo explaining the Blended Family Formula further. You can BLOCK and COPY, then INSERT sections of this text into SupportCalc's word processor. See page 2-20 of your manual if you are unsure how transfer text to word processing. (These documents are also included in their entirety in Appendix D of the SupportCalc manual.)

 

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WASHINGTON STATE CHILD SUPPORT SCHEDULE COMMISSION

REPORT ON USE OF SUPPORT SCHEDULE FOR BLENDED FAMILIES

DECEMBER 1989

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

I. INTRODUCTION

II. RECOMMENDATIONS

III. POSITIONS ON RECOMMENDING A FORMULA

IV. THE BLENDED FAMILY FORMULA APPROACH

V. LACASSE FORMULA

VI. REPORT OPPOSING RECOMMENDING A FORMULA

VII. BIOGRAPHIES OF THE COMMISSIONERS

 

I. INTRODUCTION

Under RCW 26.19.040, the Washington State Child Support Schedule Commission is mandated to review the Schedule and propose changes as needed each even numbered year. Although not mandated to review the Schedule in 1989, the Commission has, in response to requests from the public and Legislators, continued to review the Schedule. The Commission has focused on the blended family situation, an issue which frequently arises in modification proceedings. It is also reviewing the results of the Commission's survey of support orders, the economic table, residential credits, income issues, the requirement of a sum certain, the complexity of the worksheets, and verification of how support is spent. This report addresses only the blended family issues.

 

II. RECOMMENDATIONS

A. Retain the provisions allowing for deviation in blended family situations. The presumptive amount of support is determined by applying Schedule to the income of the mother and father to determine the amount of support for the children they have in common. When there are children from other relationships, Standard 13, allows for deviation for the presumptive amount, based on the circumstances of both households.

 

B. Retain RCW 26.19.020(3), which provides that all income and resources of each parent's household must be disclosed and considered.

Traditionally, Washington law has required the full disclosure of the financial situation of both households. The Commission affirms this approach. Worksheets A and C, which provide information on the total resources and circumstances of each household must be completed in each case and filed with the court.

 

C. Standard 13 should be retained. Standard 13 addresses deviations in the blended family situation. It states:

 

When there are children from other relationships, the schedule shall be applied to the mother, father and children of the relationship being considered. Deviation from the amount of support derived from this application may be based upon all the circumstances of both households. All income, resources, and support obligations paid and received shall be disclosed and considered. Support obligations include children in the home and children outside of the home.

 

The Commission heard extensive testimony on the need for more consistency in blended family situations, where one or both parents have children or stepchildren from other relationships. Numerous approaches or formulas exist within the state. Formulas can provide consistent treatment to people who are similarly situated, but the varying formulas in use in the state can lead to substantial inconsistency depending on the formulas used.

D. The following principals should be followed when using Standard 13 to deviate from the presumptive amount of support in blended family situations:

 

1. Parents are responsible for the support if their children.

 

2. The income of spouses or cohabitants should be disregarded in any formula approach.

 

3. In applying formulas for deviation under Standard 13, imputed income should be based upon a parent's earning history or ability, and not on the earnings of a spouse or cohabitant.

 

4. The presence of stepchildren should be disregarded in any formula approach.

 

E. Certain formulas known to the Commission have been analyzed using identical fact patterns. The following formulas are disapproved:

 

1. Washington Administrative Code, as currently drafted.

2. Community property method of determining income.

3. Benton Franklin Court Rule, as adopted in 1987.

4. Using maintenance or child support to affect income.

5. Wisconsin approach.

 

F. After deviating under Standard 13, the amount determined may also be changed for reasons set forth in Standard 12 which provides for deviations in general. It states:

 

Reasons for deviation may include the possession of wealth, shared living arrangements, extraordinary debt, extraordinary high income of a child, a significant disparity in the living costs of the parents due to conditions beyond their control, special needs of disabled children, and tax planning. The transfer payment amount my deviate if tax planning results in greater benefit to the child.

 

III. SUMMARY OF POSITIONS ON RECOMMENDING A FORMULA

The Commission was divided on whether or not there was a need for further guidance when a court decided to deviate under Standard 13. A motion to adopt the Blended Family Formula Approach, described below, passed by a vote of six to five, with eleven Commissioners present. Two of the five voting against the motion supported using a different formula. Three of the five opposed the motion on the basis that a formula is too restrictive of the latitude given judges under Standard 13.

 

Nine Commissioners, including Judge Anthony Wartnik, who was absent from the meeting, believe further guidance for deviation under Standard 13 is needed to provide more consistent treatment to blended families that are similarly situated. Eight Commissioners, excluding Judge Wartnik, recommend the selection of a formula, but disagree as to what formula is most appropriate. It was decided that this report should reflect the views of each division. Each of the reports follows.

IV. THE BLENDED FAMILY FORMULA APPROACH

A. Description of Approach

The presumptive amount of support is determined by applying the Schedule t the income of the mother and father to determine the amount of support for the children they have in common.

 

If that support amount is found to be inequitable based on all the circumstances of both households, the following formula is to be used to determine a deviation based on the number of children of a parent:

 

1. Determine the net income for each parent.

 

2. Determine the family size for each parent. Count each child the parent has in common with the other parents as 1 child and each parent's biological or adopted child from another relationship as 5.

 

3. Determine each parent's obligation by applying the table to each parent's individual net income and family size. If the parent's family size is a whole number, use the table amount for that family size. If the parent's family size is not a whole number, add the table amounts from the two columns that most closely describe that parents family size and divide by 2 to get the average.

 

After considering the circumstances of both households, the amount determined under this approach may be changed for Standard 12 reasons which include: wealth, shared living arrangements, extraordinary debt, significant disparity in living costs, tax planning, and high income of a child or special needs of a disable child.

 

B. Example of Formula

 

A and B were married in 1980 and had one child. After their divorce in 1983, B married C and they have three children together. In 1989, the support for A and Bs child is being modified. A's net income is $1,000 and B's income is $2,000. C's net income is disregarded. All the children are under 12.

 

Under the presumptive amount of support, based on A and B's combined income of $3,000,

 

A's obligation is $207

B's obligation is $414

 

If the judge decides to deviate because of the additional children:

 

1. A's net income is $1,000

B's net income is $2,000

(C's net income is disregarded).

 

2. A's family size is 1

B's family size is 2.5 (1+1.5)

 

3. A's obligation is $220 (1 child at $1,000)

B's obligation is $304 ($331 + $277 - 2 = $304)

(2 and 3 child average at $2,000)

 

After considering all the circumstances of both households, the amount calculated under this approach may be changed for reasons set forth in Standard 12, set out above.

 

C. Advantages of Blended Family Formula Approach

The blended family approach is recommended because it provides guidance as to what may occur to a support obligation when a parent has additional children. It provides consistent treatment for families that are similarly situated. Parents will be more capable of predicting what result might occur in court which may lead to a resolution of the dispute without the need for extensive litigation.

 

The approach retains the use of discretion that can be exercised based on the facts of a particular case. The formula is used only when it is deemed appropriate after considering the circumstances of both households. The judge may also deviate for reasons described in Standard 12.

 

This particular formula was preferred because it balances the obligation to support children from other relationships with the recognition that those children have additional resources available for their support. It also recognizes that the economic table amount for family size are understated when there are multiple households.

The formula offers a compromise approach. It disregards the income of the new spouse or cohabitant, yet also recognizes the impact of the varying number of children in different households.

 

The blended family formula approach is supported by the following six commissioners:

 

HELEN DONIGAN - Chair and Professor of Law Gonzaga University School of Law

 

MIKE CURTIS - Office of the Administrator of the Courts

 

BEATRICE KRILOFF - Custodial representative

 

JUDITH PARKER - Residential parent and non-residential step-parent

DAN RADIN - Assistant Attorney General

 

DENISE READ - Evergreen Legal Services

 

 

V. LACASSE FORMULA

1. Determine each parent's obligation individually using only that parent's net income use that column for the number of natural/biological or adopted children.

 

2. Those amounts derived from the tables will be the presumptive amount.

3. Deviation from the presumptive amount will be based on Standards 12 and/or 13 and such basis for that deviation must be substantial.

 

4. Any maintenance paid will be deducted from gross earnings before using table.

 

This formula/method is simple to apply and treats all children natural and adopted, equally. This formula/method should be applied in all proceedings where a determination of child support is made.

 

The LaCasse Formula is supported by the following two Commissioners:

 

ROBERT HOYDEN - Noncustodial representative

 

MICHAEL LACASSE - Noncustodial representative

 

 

 

VI. REPORT OPPOSING RECOMMENDING A FORMULA

 

A. Policy Statement for Blended Families

Standards for Determination of Child Support, Economic Table and Worksheets and Instructions are used as a basis to determine child support under numerous factual patterns and scenarios. the basic assumption that underlies all the child support determinations is that included in the table,s basic support amount are ordinary expenses that are common to all children. However, the child support schedule is best suited for termination of child support in those cases involving first-time divorces with no dependant for other relationships or marriages. This is the factual pattern that is basically set forth in Worksheet A.

 

Worksheet C sets forth additional factors for consideration and specifically state the this worksheet must be completed regardless of whether or not a deviation is being requested. Pursuant to RCW 26.19.020, all income and resources of each household must be disclosed and considered by the judge or administrative law judge. Worksheet C provides the bases for determining when a deviation from the standard calculation is appropriate.

 

No one formula for determining deviation is suitable under all varying family situations. The Commission has adopted the following principles as a matter of public policy involving situations where there are children from other relationships (blended families). Those three policies or principles are as follows:

 

1. Each child has an equal right to share in a parent's income. The schedule, however, should not create economic disincentives for remarriage;

 

2. The amount of child support ordered for each child of a parent may vary because of the family situation of the other parent of the child;

 

3. The approach for deviation must treat both parent's in the same manner, either including or excluding or excluding the income of new spouses and the needs of other children.

 

The administrative law judge of judge who determines the amount of child support to be paid must review Worksheet C after the presumptive amount has been determined in accordance with Standard 13, the administrative law judge or judge may deviate from the amount of support derived from the application of the Economic Table based upon all the circumstances of both parties. It is within his/her discretion.

 

The commission has attempted in its adoption of the new Worksheet C to set forth the additional factors that must be considered in those situations which are commonly referred to a "blended families." Blended families may include: Remarriage of one spouse; remarriage of both spouses; remarriage to spouses with dependents; marriage of spouses who go on to have additional dependant children as a result of the remarriage, or a combination thereof. The factual patterns are too numerous to list.

 

Worksheet C, as recently adopted by the Washington State Child Support Commission's July 1, 1989, report, sets forth the factors to be considered pursuant to Standard 13. Both Mother's and father's households must list o Section 28 the assets in that home which includes the assets of the new marital partner or cohabitants. Section 29 lists the debts of that household. Section 30 lists the monthly household income which is not set forth on Worksheet A. Additional factors listed on Worksheet C are monthly support paid for other children maintenance paid for other relationships, the number of children in the household not of the relationship set forth on Worksheet A, and other adults of the household. Section 36 attempts to have the party who completes the worksheet set forth the reasons why there should be deviations pursuant to the standards and instructions.

 

The administrative law judge or judge must still set the presumptive child support amount. The administrative law judge or judge may deviate from the presumptive Child support amount stated on the required worksheet by reviewing additional worksheets and factors on Worksheet C. The administrative law judge or judge is required to state the reasons for deviation from the presumptive amount. Perhaps the most difficult area in determining when deviation should take place, in regard to presumptive child support amounts, relates to blended families situations. It was a policy determination of the Commission that the economic table should not serve as a disincentive to remarriage. It was the intent of the Commission to allow for discretion by the administrative law judge or judge in determining the child support in the blended family situation subject to all of the factors set forth in Worksheets A, B and C. The Commission stated in its instructions for Worksheet C that if a deviation is made because of children of other relationships, the method use to compute the amount of each parent's support obligation should be described. The Commission did not set forth formulas by which child support is to be determined in the blended family situation.

 

It should be the intent of the Commission not to limit the discretion of either the administrative law judge or the judge, as previously promulgated by the Commission and the Washington State Child Support Schedule, either by way of the standards or the worksheets.

 

The following four Commissioners agree with the above policy statement.

 

David LaRose  Administrative Law Judge

Jim Kennedy  State Bar Representative

Anthony Wartnik Superior Court Judge

Wayne King  Noncustodial Representative

 

 

B. Additional Policy Statements

1. Commissioners Kennedy and King feel strongly that the Administrative Law Judges and Judges be granted the widest latitude in applying and interpreting Standard 13 and R.C.W. 26.19.020(6). It is this minority's position that he report as adopted is too restrictive. The application of Standard 13 and R.C.W. 26.19.020(6) depends upon the facts of each particular case in the blended family.

 

The Commission expended a great deal of time and effort to present different scenarios to serve as guides in the blended family setting. This effort was unsuccessful. It is this minority's concern that not all scenarios and/or formulas were nor presented. Such scenarios and/or formulas, while applicable in certain factual situations, may not be in other circumstances. As a result, no formula should serve as a basis to limit discretion.

 

2. Commissioners LaRose and Wartnik believe all formulas should be available for consideration and use by the Administrative Law Judge or Judge that fairly and reasonably apply the Standards set out in the Schedule and Comply with the principles listed in the Recommendations section of this Report.

 

COMMISSIONERS

HELEN DONIGAN, CHAIR

MICHAEL CURTIS

ROBERT HOYDEN

JIM KENNEDY

WAYNE KING

BEATRICE KRILOFF

MICHEL LACASSE

DAVID R. LAROSE

JUDITH PARKER

DANIEL RADIN

DENISE READ

HONORABLE ANTHONY WARTNIK

 

COMMISSION STAFF

 

JEAN IRLBECK

MONICA ZAZWORSKY

 

 

 

VII. BIOGRAPHIES OF THE COMMISSIONERS

HELEN DONIGAN is a Professor of Law at Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, where she has taught family law since 1979. She was the Washington State Bar representative to the Commission until 1988 when she was designated chair of the Commission by the Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services. Professor Donigan has been a member of the Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Executive Committee since 1981 and was given the Section's Professional of the Year award in 1989. She has worked on joint-custody legislation and was a member of the steering committee for the Washington State Legislative Conference on family law economic issues in 1984. Professor Donigan has authored numerous articles in the area of family law and was a contributing author and consulting editor for the Washington State Bar Association Family Law Deskbook. She has two adult children.

 

 

MICHAEL CURTIS was designated to the Commission by Mary Campbell McQueen, the State Administrator for the Courts. Mr. Curtis has been employed by the Office of the administrator for the Courts as a juvenile and family court specialists since August 1985. He served on the Governor's Executive Task Force On Support enforcement in 1986 and coauthored SHB 413, which created a simplified process to modify child support orders.

 

 

DANIEL RADIN, designated to the Commission by the Attorney General Kenneth O Eikenberry, has been an assistant attorney general since 1980. Mr. Radin provides legal advice to the Office of Support Enforcement (OSE) and acts as litigation coordinator for support enforcement matter for the Attorney's General Office. He was chair-person of the Seattle King County Bar Association Family Law Section 1987, and was an executive board member of the Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section from 1983-89. Mr Radin is a contributing author and service on the editorial board for the Washington State Bar Association Family law Deskbook. He is a frequent lecturer and author on support enforcement matters. He received the Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section's Attorney of the Year Award in 1989.

 

 

ROBERT HOYDEN was nominated to the Commission by Kids in Divorce Situations (K.I.D.S.). Mr. Hoyden is a Seattle-based businessman and one of the primary organizers of K.I.D.S., a politically active group interested in promoting legislation pertaining to children. Mr hoyden has senior standing toward a B.A. Degree in English, and plans to continue his education at Seattle University. He has encouraged communication from noncustodial parents, whom he represents on the Commission. Mr. Hoyden is a noncustodial parent of a child living in New York.

 

 

JIM KENNEDY was nominated by the Washington State Bar Association. He has been practicing attorney, mainly in domestic law, in Yakima since 1972. He received his B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Washington in 1969 and his J.D. degree from Willamette University in 1972. He has served as a member of the Washington State Family Law Executive Committee from 1986 to the present.

 

 

WAYNE KING was nominated to the Commission by Senator James West and Representative Duane Sommers. He is a noncustodial parent of two children. Mr King is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and has earned his master's Degree in Business from the University of Northern Colorado. Mr. King represents the noncustodial population.

 

 

BEATRICE KRILOFF serves on the Commission by virtue of her extensive experience with the setting and collection of child support as President of the Need for Support Enforcement, and a member of Governor Gardner's Executive Task Force on Support Enforcement. Ms. Kriloff has a B.A. degree from the University of Washington and was employed as a teacher for a number of years. Through her position as a Director of the National Child Support Advocacy Coalition and a consultant to the Child Support and Family Responsibility Project, she is familiar with both national and local aspects of these issues.

 

 

MICHEL LACASSE was nominated to the Commission by Senator Brad Owens and United Fathers of America. He works for the Boeing Company in Seattle and lives in Federal Way. He is a noncustodial parent with 48% residential with his two children. He worked on Initiative 528, which promoted joint custody. He was an Air Force Reserve flight engineer and has lived in King County Washington since 1974. His primary concern is equity in our system.

 

 

DAVID R. LAROSE was appointed to the Commission by the Legislature in 1989. Mr. La Rose is a graduate of Whitman College and the University of Chicago Law School. He is a former King County deputy prosecuting attorney and practiced law privately in Seattle. He was appointed Chief Administrative Law Judge in 1981 and reappointed in 1986. He directs the Office of Administrative Hearings, which includes a staff of some sixty administrative law Judges, some of whom adjudicate child support matters after initial findings of financial responsibility by the Office of Support Enforcement.

 

 

JUDITH PARKER is a private vocational counselor and an employment program manager for Spokane Public Schools. Her educational background includes a B.A. in education and a Masters of Education degree in Counseling. Ms. Parker is chair of Spokane Youth 2000. She is part of a blended family in that she is a custodial parent and the spouse of a nonresidential parent.

 

 

DENISE READ was nominated to the Commission by Evergreen Legal Services and the Washington State Bar Association. She is an attorney for Evergreen Legal Services in Seattle. She received her B.A. degree from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, and her J.D. from Antioch Law School in Washington, D.C.

 

 

ANTHONY P. WARTNIK was nominated by the Washington State Association of Superior Court Judges. Judge Wartnik is widowed and has a son and a daughter. He obtained his B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Washington, maintained a general law practice from 1963 to january 1971, served as a Bellevue District Court Judge from 1971 to April 1980, and has served as a judge with the King County Superior Court from 1980 to present. He has been a member and chair of the King County Superior Court's Family Law Department and Family Law Committee of the Washington State Association of Superior Court Judges. Judge Wartnik was active in the creation, implementation and subsequent revisions of the Superior Court Judges' Uniform Child Support Guidelines.

 

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(The following is from the OSE manual, Rev. #58 (03/94))

 

 

BLENDED FAMILY FORMULA

(December 1989-September 28, 1993)

 

The Washington State Child Support Schedule Commission published the Blended Family Formula in December 1989. The noncustodial parent must have a support obligation for all children. SED (then OSE) used the formula as a guideline to determine support in addition to the Washington State Child Support Schedule instructions when any parent had children from other relationships who lived with that parent. It was OSE policy to use these guidelines for standardized computations across the state. However, there were more deviations allowed by law and decisions of equity. Parties could ask for a Conference Board, Adjudicative Proceeding (if eligible), or go to Superior Court to decide deviations or issues not covered by this guideline.

 

Calculation instructions follow.

 

A. Determine the net income for each parent.

 

1. Deduct from the AP's net income child support actually paid for children from other relationships [not children in common with this AR/AC].

 

2. Include child support received for children from other relationships [not children in common with this AP].

 

B. Determine the number of children in common and those living with each parent.

 

1. Count each child the parent has in common with the other parent as one child.

 

2. Count each parent's biological or adopted child from another relationship as .5 (one-half) if that child lives with that parent.

 

[Note: The Blended Family Report excluded consideration of stepchildren in the household.]

 

C. Determine each parent's obligation.

 

1. Apply the Washington State Child Support Schedule Economic Table to each parent's individual net income and number of resident children.

 

2. Use the table amount if the number of children is a whole number.

 

3. If the number of children is not a whole number:

 

a. Add the table amounts from the two columns that are closest to that number of children.

 

b. Divide the sum by 2 to get an average.

 

 

EXAMPLE: A and B were married in 1980 and had one child. After their divorce in 1983, B married C and they have three children together. A married D and had one child. A and D Divorced and A currently receives $250 per month for their child. A is modifying the support for A and B's child. B is currently paying support under a paternity order at $125 per month to E. After mandatory deductions A's net income is $1,000 and B's net income is $2,500. C's net income is disregarded. All the children are under 12.

 

 

Apply the Blended Family Formula to the example as follows:

 

* A's net income is $1,000+ $250 child support from D = $1250;

B's net income is $2,500-$125 child support paid to E = $2375

C's net income is disregarded.

 

* A's number of children is 1.5 (Count 1 for the child in common with B and .5 for D's child.) B's number of children is 2.5 (Count 1 for the child in common with A and count .5 for each of B & C's 3 children [.5 x 3= 1.5]. The child living with E does not count as a member of B's household.)

 

* Compute the obligation per child as follows:

 

A's Obligation B's Obligation

Net income $1250 Net income $2375

1 child (under 12) 2 children (under 12)

= $221 per child =$393 per child

2 children (under 12) =$274 3 children (under 12)

$221 + $274 = $495 divided by 2 =$328 per child

=$247.50 per child $393 + $328 = $721 divided by 2

 

 

 

D. Complete the Washington State Child Support Schedule work sheets.

 

1. Include the following on part VI of the work sheet:

 

 a. Child support actually received from another AP.

 

b. Child support actually paid for other children.

 

c. Other children living in each household.

 

2. Complete item #22 of the work sheet (Other Factors For Consideration).a. List children from other relationships not living in either parent's household, but for whom the parent owes support.b. Include a brief description of the deviation method and calculation.

EXAMPLE: Blended Family Formula applied. Father has 1 child from this Relationship, 3 children with present spouse, 1 child from previous relationship not living with father: father's total children = 2.5 [all under 12 yrs.]. Average of 2-3 child obligation at $2375 per month net = $360.50 per child. Mother has 1 child from this relationship, 1 child in home from another relationship: mother's total children = 1.5 [all under 12 yrs.]. Average of 1-2 child Obligation at $1250 per month net = $247.50 per child. 

3. Note the deviation on item #15 of the work sheet (Net Support Obligation).EXAMPLE: * See item #22 deviation for blended family.