In Virginia, both parents of a child are required to financially contribute to the child’s financial needs. This is regardless of which parent has custody of the child and whether the parents were ever married. If you are encountering a situation where child support may be calculated for your child for the first time, you understandably have many questions about the process and about how much you may receive, or have to pay. Child support can have a major impact on the child’s quality of life, so it is important for parents to be well-informed about child support calculations and guidelines in Virginia.
What Is Child Support?
In this state, the court will review the total income earned by both parents. This is income from all sources–including self-employment income, spousal support, retirement income, interests and dividends, disability benefits. However, if you are self-employed, some deductions may be made for reasonable business expenses. The amount of total child support will also take into account any work-related childcare costs, the costs of providing a child with health insurance coverage (including dental and vision insurance), and the total number of days a child spends in each parent’s home during a calendar year.
Child support is intended to cover the basic costs associated with raising a child, such as housing, food, transportation, and clothing. Even though one parent typically makes a monthly child support payment to the other, that amount is not intended to cover 100% of these costs; it is only meant to supplement what the receiving parent will be paying out of pocket. The guideline child support calculation also does not account for all of the many discretionary expenses most parents incur, such as extra-curricular activities, electronics, tutors, etc., so many parents will decide how to allocate these additional expenses separately from a monthly child support payment.
While many parents make child support payments directly to the other parent, whether by mailing them a check or arranging for automatic bank transfers, payments can also be withheld from the paying party’s paycheck and distributed to the other parent through the state’s Department of Child Support Enforcement service.
When Is Child Support Needed?
Generally, parents are obligated to pay child support for a child until he or she reaches age 18 years old and graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. It may extend for a child up to age 19 if he or she still lives with the custodial parent and is still in high school. Child support obligations may extend even further for children who are permanently and severely mentally or physically disabled, to the extent that they are not capable of being self-supporting.
Many people associate child support with divorce proceedings. It is true that child support arrangements are a part of divorce proceedings in Virginia when the divorcing couple has children. However, a child’s parents do not need to be married in order for child support obligations to arise. For example, a mother may legally pursue child support through the court system after she gives birth even if she has never been married to the baby’s father; this may require paternity testing as well.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
The calculation for child support is complex but begins with determining each parent’s gross annual income. There may also be an inquiry into whether a parent is “voluntarily unemployed” or “voluntarily under-employed,” meaning they are choosing not to work, or choosing to work only part-time or in a position that they are overqualified for. In the case of voluntary unemployment or under-employment, the court will impute income to that parent, which means the calculation will assume that he or she is earning the maximum possible amount based on education and job qualifications, previous earning history, and available jobs for which they would qualify.
If a parent is paying court-ordered child support for a child of a different relationship, then that amount of child support is deducted from their income. And if a parent is self-employed, reasonable business expenses can be deducted from their income.
The child support guideline calculation is considered a presumption that will meet a child’s needs and best interests; however, either parent may request that the court deviates from the guideline calculation, whether by increasing or decreasing it, based on the particular circumstances of the family. For instance, if a parent is paying for a child’s private school tuition to paying for child support, he or she may request that the monthly guideline amount be reduced in order to make the tuition payments more affordable. Or if the child has extraordinary medical or educational costs, a parent may ask that child support be increased to account for the extraordinary financial burden associated with meeting the child’s needs.
Child Support Guidelines in Virginia
The Virginia Department of Social Services publishes a schedule that enables you to estimate with close approximation how much child support you may owe or receive. This schedule lists the parents’ combined gross monthly income on the left-hand side, and it itemizes the number of children that the couple shares on the top row. To determine the total child support that is allocated to the parent’s child or children, find the cell where the income and the number of children meet.
Be aware that the amount listed in the schedule is not the amount that the non-custodial parent owes. Instead, it lists the total amount shared by both parents. The amount each parent owes will depend on their percentages of income, and the number of custodial days each has in an average calendar year.
Once a court has entered an order for a parent to pay child support to the other, it becomes binding on the parents unless and until the child emancipates, or another court order is entered modifying the amount to be paid. Child support is always modifiable in the event of a material change in circumstances that were unanticipated at the time the last order was entered. Examples of a material change would be the custodial schedule changing, one child emancipating while other children are still minors, or a parent being unable to work due to a physical or mental disability.
Learn More Today
Are you interested in seeking child support payments in Virginia? Do you need to modify a child support arrangement based on a material change in circumstances? You should schedule a legal consultation to learn more about your rights and the next steps to take.