Child support is mandated by law when parents divorce or when paternity has been established for an unmarried father. Like other states, Virginia’s child support laws are based on the idea that children deserve the support of both parents; it is the child’s right and should not be subject to parental wishes or whims. Thus, Virginia provides set guidelines that are used to calculate support payments. While child support calculations based on the state’s guidelines may appear to be straightforward in yielding a “presumptive” amount of monthly support, an accurate and fair determination can often be very confusing and prone to complications, depending on your situation. Combine this with the conflict that can arise between divorcing or unmarried parents, and the issue can become even more challenging.
That is why we recommend that you turn to a family law firm that knows the intricacies of Virginia child support statutes and how to apply them to your individual situation. At Butler Moss O'Neal, PLC, we can help you avoid errors that could cost you or your children hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. Our experienced team can ensure the support payment to which you are entitled as the recipient or which you are obligated to pay as the supporting parent is fair and just while still meeting the court policy of the child’s best interests.
Need help determining a fair application of child support guidelines? Book a consultation with one of our Fredericksburg child support attorneys by contacting Butler Moss O'Neal, PLC at (540) 306-5780.
Child support is governed by § 20-1088.2 of the Code of Virginia, which explains how it is determined. It provides a way to calculate monthly payments based on the number of children to be supported and the respective gross monthly incomes of each party. Child support orders become part of the divorce process. For unmarried parents, it may be based on a court order after a paternity action or may be issued by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
Child support is generally paid to the “custodial” parent by the “noncustodial” parent. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child mainly resides. Under the law, it is assumed that custodial parents directly cover a large portion of the child-raising costs while the child lives with them.
Child support calculations also take into account the costs of work-related childcare and medical insurance costs for the children. Once these numbers are known, the guidelines result in a support payment that the courts are required to apply, unless one party presents evidence that allows the court to “deviate” from the presumptive amount. Deviations may result in a child support payment that is appropriate for some couples.
In some cases, the determination of a party’s gross monthly income may not be so simple, particularly if that party’s income is cash-based or generated from a small business with in-house bookkeeping or no bookkeeping.
In other cases, the supporting party may not be working but has earning capability. This raises the question of “imputation of income” for the non-working parent. Courts “impute income” to a parent based on his or her earning capacity, despite being unemployed or underemployed. This situation could be a reason for the court to impose a deviation from the presumed child support payment per the guidelines. This scenario is often one of the most contentious issues in child support law and can even involve the use of “expert witnesses” to testify about the non-working parent’s earning capacity.
The cost of “work-related childcare” can also be controversial. For example, should this include the costs of summer camps? And how long should a child be deemed to need “daycare?” What if free daycare is available through a family member but the parents disagree over whether that person should provide the daycare?
The division of custodial time can also affect the issue of child support when the “non-custodial parent” has 90 days or more of custodial time per calendar year. When that threshold is crossed, a “shared custody” child support guideline is used, which can raise disagreements over the custodial time actually being exercised by each party. The division of dependent tax exemptions is another area of child support that often can cause dissension.
As you can see, child support can be a complex matter with many factors that need to be considered. Our experienced attorneys can help to ensure that your case is handled properly. We can also provide the representation you need in seeking modifications through the court when current payments become unviable due to substantial and material changes in your life or that of your child.
The bottom line is that you should not trust your child support to guesswork or speculation about what the law requires. Many people have tried to “run the guidelines” themselves and inadvertently short-changed or over-charged themselves (or their children.)
Get an experienced child support attorney on your side who knows the ins and outs of the child support statutes and who can help you avoid errors that may cost you or your children hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. Call BUTLER HODEGE MOSS, PLC today.
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How is child support calculated under Virginia law?Child support is determined according to a presumptive guideline that is set forth in Section 20-108.2 of the Code of Virginia. The guideline requires one to know the number of children, the gross monthly income of each parent, the cost of work related day care for the children, and the cost of providing medical insurance. A number of other considerations come into play, for example, the presence of other children who are not the subject of the current child support proceeding, the number of custodial days each parent has with the child per calendar year, and whether either parent has claimed the child tax credit, may all affect the guideline calculation. The guidelines yield a “presumptive” figure for monthly child support, which means that the Court is required to apply that amount unless evidence proves that the Court should deviate from the guidelines. A list of the possible “deviating” factors is set forth in Section 20-108.1 of the Code.
Can a Virginia court order that a parent pay college expenses for a child?Yes and no. Virginia law does not allow the court, on its own, to order that child support include the payment of college expenses. However, if the parents enter into a written agreement providing that one or both of the parents have to pay for college, the court can enforce the parents’ agreement.
Can child support in Virginia be ordered to continue past the age of 18?
Yes. Section 20-124.2(C) of the Virginia Code provides that support will continue to be paid for any child over the age of 18 who is (i) a full-time high school student, (ii) not self-supporting, and (iii) living in the home of the party seeking or receiving child support until such child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever first occurs.
The court may also order the continuation of support for any child over the age of 18 who is (i) severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled, (ii) unable to live independently and support himself, and (iii) resides in the home of the parent seeking or receiving child support. In addition, the court may confirm a stipulation or agreement of the parties which extends a support obligation beyond when it would otherwise terminate as provided by law.