Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 91-3-08918-7. Date filed in Superior Court: November 29, 1994. Superior Court Judge Signing: Harry Slusher.
Written by: Judge Baker, Concurred by: Judge Grosse, Judge Webster
BAKER, C.J. - Rhonda Burch appeals an income-based adjustment to child support reducing the monthly obligation of her former spouse, Robert Burch. She argues that (1) the trial court impermissibly modified the original decree of dissolution when it considered Robert's child from another relationship in computing the standard obligation under the statutory schedule, and (2) a health care credit was insufficiently proved. Robert cross appeals, asserting that the court erred by (1) failing to consider a second child from the other relationship in its computations, and (2) refusing to impute income to Rhonda. We reverse, holding that the court erred when it considered Robert's new children in calculating his basic debt. We also hold that the trial court properly refused to impute income and that Rhonda failed to properly object to the health care credit.
When the parties' marriage was dissolved in 1992, they had two minor children. The decree set Robert's monthly support obligation at $884 using a two child family standard, and required adjustment every two years "based upon the parties' then-current incomes." Two years later Robert moved to adjust the amount of support under this provision. Robert's motion requested an adjustment based not only on a change in income but also on his obligation to support two children from another relationship. Information
included in the motion suggested that the new children were born before entry of the original decree. The court decided to use a three child standard under the support schedule, including Robert's son from the new relationship, but excluding a stepdaughter whom he considered his own and planned to adopt. Based on those factors and a monthly credit for child health care payments mentioned in Robert's support worksheets, the adjustment order decreased Robert's payments to $714.
Rhonda argues that the trial court exceeded the scope of its discretion when it considered children from another relationship when calculating Robert's basic support debt.*fn1 The Legislature has clearly provided that "children from other relationships shall not be counted . . . for purposes of determining the basic support obligation and the standard calculation."*fn2 Instead, the proper method for recognizing the obligor's duty to other children is a discretionary deviation from the standard calculation.*fn3
Despite the clear intent of the Legislature, Robert argues that the court could properly consider the effect of the other children before determining his basic support obligation under RCW 26.09.170(9). This subsection of the child support modification statute allows periodic adjustment without proof of a substantial change in circumstances when "based upon changes in the economic table or standards in [the child support schedule]."*fn4
When construing a statute, we must ascertain and
give effect to the intent of the Legislature. In furtherance of that duty, we look first to the language of the statute, and may then examine legislative history including any bill reports.*fn5 The statute does not manifest a legislative intent to permit adjustment whenever events in the lives of the parties would change the debt amount calculated under the schedule. Such a construction would render remaining statutory provisions contradictory and superfluous. Furthermore, the Final Bill Report reveals that the Legislature meant for RCW ...