I want to change (modify) my Child Support court order

Read this in: Spanish / Español

Questions and answers about the laws that apply to changing a Washington State Child Support court order. #3814EN

Please Note:

  • Read this only if you have a child support order from Washington State.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Read this to learn more about your options for changing a Washington State Child Support court order. Your case may be different from types of cases we discuss here. Talk with a lawyer about your case.

You can try to change a court's order of support by filing a Motion or a Petition. We explain here how to choose one.

If you decide after reading this to try to change your support order, use one of our do-it-yourself packets listed at the end. Or find out if the court where you are filing has its own packet. It may be easier to use.

You can start a court case to change your child support in Washington State if both of these are true:

  • You have an order from a Washington Court
  • You, the other party, or the child lives in Washington

In Washington, a court order is a Child Support Order from a Superior Court. It will say this on the first page, towards the top.

Sample Caption Image: Superior Court of Washington, County of

You do not have a court order. You have an administrative order. An administrative order is a "Notice and Finding of Financial Responsibility", a "Notice and Finding of Parental Responsibility" or an "Initial Decision and Order". Here's what the top of the first page (the caption) might look like:

Sample Caption: DSHS Administrative Order

If you have one of these, do not use this packet. Use How to Ask DCS to Review Your Child Support Order for Modification instead.

Maybe. Contact a lawyer or the Division of Child Support (DCS) to find out more.

No. You must file a separate case for each.

Only if at least one of the following is true:

  • The current Support Order lets you change support before the date you filed your motion or case.
  • You have supported the children in your home for a long time even though the court ordered you to pay the other parent support.

Before trying to do this, talk to a lawyer. Read Do You Owe Child Support?

It depends. You can file a Motion to Adjust Support if it has been 2 years since the entry of your support order and a parent's income has changed, or your support order says you can do it sooner.

A motion for adjustment generally is faster and simpler than filing a new case (a Petition to Modify. See below). A court can decide it with less advance notice. There is less paperwork.

If you qualify to file this type of motion, you can use our File a Motion to Adjust a Child Support Order packet.

If you have received this type of motion, you must respond! You can use our Respond to a Motion to Adjust a Child Support Court Order packet.

It depends. Usually, a motion only lets you change the support amount. If you also want to add (or take away) a requirement that a parent pay daycare, educational costs, or other expenses to or from your Order, or if you want to change who can take the tax exemption for the children, you should file a Petition to Modify Child Support Order instead. See below.

* If your Support Order already has the parents share daycare, educational expenses or uninsured medical costs, you may be able to change how much of those you each must pay in a Motion for Adjustment.

Yes, you can do so in certain situations. For example, you can file this Petition if you meet the requirements for filing a motion for adjustment, above.

You can also file this Petition it has been one year since the entry of your current support order and the order causes a parent or child real hardship.

Yes, if it has been one year since the entry of your current support order. The child must still be in high school when you file.


Yes, you can file this Petition if you can show a substantial change in the circumstances of a parent or the children. It does not matter when your support order was entered.

A substantial change usually will be something you had no control over. Examples: injury or illness that keeps you from working; losing a job; going to jail; a change in the child's needs.

This change cannot be:

  • Something a parent or the court knew when you got the current support order
  • A choice you made, such as quitting your job, or deciding to go to school or take a lower paying job
  • Because the parent getting support got a raise

If you are filing for support modification because of a change in circumstances, you must prove that change happened.

Yes. It does not matter when your support order was entered.

You can file your modification case in any one of these counties:

  • Where your current Support Order was entered
  • Where the child lives
  • Where the person who has the child lives

If all or some of these are different counties, it is okay to choose the county that is easiest for you, or both of you, to get to. The other parent can try to have the case moved (called "changing the venue") to a different county than the one you chose. The county the parent wants the venue moved to must fit one of the 3 descriptions above.

Some counties offer a "Self-Help" class. You can learn how to file your own support modification or adjustment. You might have to pay for it, but it should help more with local forms and procedures. If available, you should take a class. To find out if your county offers any, ask the clerk or facilitator.

Some counties have family law facilitators. They can help you file in court. They cannot give legal advice. They often have do-it-yourself packets for your county.

Ask the Division of Child Support (DCS) for help. Read How to Ask DCS to Review Your Child Support Order for Modification.

Generally, a Motion to Adjust is quicker than a petition. It can take a month or less.

How long a Petition to Modify Child Support Order takes will depend in part on the county you are filing in, if the other parent lives in Washington, and how you have your court papers served on them. The other parent will have anywhere from 20 to 90 days after being served to respond to your petition.

If the other parent does not respond in time, you can ask the court to enter final orders by default. If you follow the procedure correctly, it will save you time. If you do not follow the procedure correctly, the other parent could later ask the court to cancel the order.  

If the other parent responds, how long it takes to finalize the case will vary. It may take at least 2 to 3 months to finalize.

No. The court decides support modification cases without a hearing. The court just reads everything you and the other parent filed.

If you need witnesses to testify to prove your cases, you must file a motion asking to allow a hearing. You can get the form for this, Motion to Allow Testimony (About Modifying Child Support), FL Modify 503, at the state court's forms website, courts.wa.gov/forms

All parts of the order about support automatically end if you later marry or remarry the other parent.

* Ask your court clerk or family law facilitator (if there is one) if your local court has their own packet. It may be easier to use. To find out if your county has a facilitator, ask the court clerk.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

Download | Printer-friendly PDF

Last Review and Update: Feb 24, 2021
Was this information helpful?
Back to top