WHAT IS CHILD SUPPORT IN VIRGINIA?

In Virginia, child support is the right of the child to receive a certain percentage of support from each parent based on specific factors. Each parent is responsible for meeting the needs of their child by providing for their needs including food, shelter, and clothing. Factors considered in determining child support include premiums for health and dental care for the child, childcare costs, the custodial schedule, support for other children, and the parent’s gross incomes. The definition of income in child support calculations is broad. A parent’s income includes not only salaries, but also, wages, severance pay, bonuses, commissions, dividends, spousal support, disability benefits, social security benefits, retirement, and pensions and other income from all sources.

The law in Virginia assumes that parents who have primary custody of their children already cover most of the costs associated with caring for the child. Consequently, non-custodial parents are usually ordered to make support payments. However, in the case of a large disparity in income, a primary custodial parent may still pay child support to a non-custodial parent.  Some parents assume that if both parents share equal parenting time there will be no child support, but that is not necessarily true.  Although it is not required to involve the courts to obtain or determine child support, a court order may be necessary when one parent is not providing financial support for the child. In Virginia, the state Department of Social Services Division of Child Support Services can issue an order using the same child support guidelines typically used by the courts.

HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATED IN VIRGINIA?

Virginia Code § 20-108.2 provides the Virginia Child Support Guidelines that the Court will use in determining the amount of child support and to which parent child support will be paid. Which support calculation will be used depends on the custodial schedule of the children. The custodial schedules that regulate the calculations are:

  • Sole custody. This is when the child (or children) stay with the custodial parent for the majority of each year and the non-custodial parent has the child (or children) for less than 91 days (including overnights). A day means a twenty-four hour period, but a parent that has a child overnight but less than 24 hours shall be allocared one-half of a day.
  • Shared custody. A child who stays with each parent at least 91 days (including overnights) during the year is considered to be shared custody.
  • Split custody. When the parties have more than one child and each party has custody of at least one child for a majority of the year.

The court will calculate the guidelines based upon the custodial arrangement, the respective incomes of each parent, childcare costs, and the healthcare premiums paid by each parent.

CAN THE COURT CHANGE THE AMOUNT DETERMINED BY THE VIRGINIA CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES?

Although child support is based on the presumption that the Virginia child support guidelines should be applied, there are fifteen factors for a court to consider in deciding that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate. Some of these special considerations may be things like: Travel expenses for parenting time, Expenses related to a child’s special needs, such as medical conditions, emotional, or physical needs, Support for other members of the family, Imputed income to a parent who is under-employed or voluntarily  nemployed, Other custody arrangements of the child, Accumulated debts of either party incurred for the benefit of the child, The child’s educational expenses, Direct payments of court-ordered direct benefits for the child such as life insurance, Extraordinary capital gains from things such as the same of the family home, Tax consequences to the parties, The earning potential of the parents, The minor’s standard of living during the marriage, Independent financial resources of the child, and Other factors that could affect the fairness of support payments between the parents.

Judges who decide to deviate from the child support guidelines must document the amount of child support that would have otherwise been required had the guidelines been used. The deviation must also be justified.

WHAT IS IMPUTED INCOME FOR CHILD SUPPORT?

Sadly, there are parents who attempt to lessen their responsibility for the financial support of their child by voluntarily decreasing the amount of money they earn or show that they earn. When a court has reason to believe that a parent is under-employed or unemployed without just cause, the court may impute an amount as the parent’s income. This means that the court will make a determination as to what the party should be earning and base the child support payments on that determination. Generally, courts will assess each parent’s history of earnings, education level, attempts to find employment, and access to employment in the area where the parents reside.

HOW ARE SUPPORT PAYMENTS MADE?

Child support payments may be made directly to the other parent, but this does not always work in favor of the custodial parent. Many paying parents fail to make payments, or regularly make late payments. To combat this, the judge can order that payments be made through a process called income withholding. This means that the employer of the parent will deduct the child support amount directly from the payor’s paycheck. The employer will then send this amount to the state agency in charge of overseeing that particular case.

WHEN DOES CHILD SUPPORT END IN VIRGINIA?

When child support is ordered for a child, the order shall also provide that support payments will continue for a child over 18 who is presently (i) a full-time student, (ii) is not self-supporting, and (iii) is residing in the same home the parent receiving or seeking child support, until the dependent reaches 19 years of age or concludes his or her high school education, whichever happens first. Virginia courts could also order that the child support be continued following the child’s 18th birthday if the dependent is (a) permanently physically and/or mentally disabled, and the disability existed before the child reached the ages of 18 or 19 when the dependent met the requirements of the clauses (i), (ii), and (iii); (b) does not have the capability to live independently or support himself/herself; and (c) is residing in the same home as the parent who is receiving or petitioning for support. A child that is no longer eligible for support is considered emancipated.

Parents have the right to petition for a review of the support when there has been a material change in circumstances. Generally, the following circumstances can prompt a new review for a child support order: A significant decrease or increase in health care coverage, A significant decrease or increase in work-related childcare expenses, A child no longer qualifies for  support under the order, A child is emancipated A child needs to be added to the order, The current order does not consider unreimbursed dental or medical provisions, or The parent is a military member experiencing deployment.

CHILD SUPPORT LAWYERS IN VIRGINIA

As divorce attorneys in Virginia, NOVA Legal Professionals will help you look at factors including income, visitation, child care costs and health care costs and adjustments for support of other children to determine how much child support you should receive or pay in Northern Virginia. Read more about how we have helped our clients here.

If you want to speak with one of our divorce, custody, and support attorneys to discuss your case, reach out to us at either our Manassas and Fairfax locations to schedule.

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