Child Support 101: An Overview of Child Support Laws in Virginia.
Child support is the amount of money paid monthly by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent of dependent children to help cover the expenses of raising the children. Whether you were married and had children, but are now divorced, or were never married the other parent of your kids, it is important to obtain an order from the court that details the child support obligations.
In Virginia, both parents, regardless of whether they are/were married, are obligated to support their child. This gives your child the benefit of what each parent could have provided together in a single household. Both you and the other parent are responsible for covering a percentage of the entire amount of required support for your child, which includes health coverage.
However, just because you are both required to provide child support does not mean you must swap checks with your ex every month. Only the custodial parent, or parent with whom the child lives and spends most of their time with, is entitled to child support payments. This is because the law assumes that the custodial parent already pays for many if not most of the costs associated with raising and caring for the child.
Accordingly, only the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent.
As you probably expected, child support payments are determined based on the combined incomes of both parents. But income includes more than the amount of money you earn on your paycheck. It includes salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay and pensions. For the purposes of child support, income also includes veteran payments and payments from social security, workers’ compensation, disability and unemployment insurance, spousal support, and even income from a second job.
Calculating Child Support
Determining the exact amount of child support you and the other parent of your child must pay is based on specific statutory guidelines set forth in the Virginia Code. Essentially, the guidelines are based on the combined gross monthly income of you and the other parent and number of children you are supporting. While a detailed discussion of how the guidelines work is outside the scope of this article, an analysis of Virginia’s child support guidelines is the subject of one of my previous blogs. Generally speaking, the total amount of child support will be between 10 and 25 percent of you and you co-parent’s combined gross monthly income.
Who Pays How Much
Since each parent has an obligation to support their child, each party will be responsible for a portion or percentage of the child support award. Because only the non-custodial parent actually pays money to the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent’s share will be the total amount of required support set-off by the share allocated to the custodial parent.
A parent’s share of child support is usually determined by the amount each parent contributes to the couple’s gross monthly income. For example, if you and your co-parent’s combined gross monthly income is $1000 and your portion of the combination is $500, then you will be required to cover 50% of the total monthly child support award.
Challenging the Guidelines
There is a presumption in Virginia that the child support guidelines are correct. However, this presumption is rebuttable – meaning you can challenge the guidelines if you believe the amount of support calculated using the guidelines is not appropriate for you or your child. Only a court can approve of a child support award that is below the guidelines, but you and your spouse can agree on an award that exceeds the guidelines.
When deciding whether to deviate from the child support guidelines, a court will consider:
- Actual monetary support for other family members or former family members;
- Arrangements regarding custody of the children, including the cost of visitation travel;
- Imputed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily under-employed; provided that income may not be imputed to a custodial parent when a child is not in school, child care services are not available and the cost of such child care services are not included in the computation and provided further, that any consideration of imputed income based on a change in a party’s employment shall be evaluated with consideration of the good faith and reasonableness of employment decisions made by the party, including to attend and complete an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party’s earning potential;
- Any child care costs incurred on behalf of the child or children due to the attendance of a custodial parent in an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party’s earning potential;
- Debts of either party arising during the marriage for the benefit of the child;
- Direct payments ordered by the court for maintaining life insurance coverage pursuant to subsection D, education expenses, or other court-ordered direct payments for the benefit of the child;
- Extraordinary capital gains such as capital gains resulting from the sale of the marital abode;
- Any special needs of a child resulting from any physical, emotional, or medical condition;
- Independent financial resources of the child or children;
- Standard of living for the child or children established during the marriage;
- Earning capacity, obligations, financial resources, and special needs of each parent;
- Provisions made with regard to the marital property under § 20-107.3, where said property earns income or has an income-earning potential;
- Tax consequences to the parties including claims for exemptions, child tax credit, and child care credit for dependent children;
- A written agreement, stipulation, consent order, or decree between the parties which includes the amount of child support; and
- Such other factors as are necessary to consider the equities for the parents and children.
Remember, the above information is just a brief overview of the basics of child support in Virginia. Accurately determining you and your co-parent’s income, calculating child support and deciding whether to challenge the guidelines can be confusing and should be done with the advice of a qualified attorney.
If you need help obtaining or challenging a child support obligation, or have any other family law issue, the experienced attorneys at DiPietro Family Law Group are happy to assist you. Call us for a consultation today at (703) 370 – 5555.
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