Child Support in Virginia
Virginia’s child support laws can be confusing. Whether you are in the process of determining support responsibilities or want to modify an existing support arrangement, the experienced family law attorneys at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC are ready to help you understand your legal obligations and achieve your objectives.
Child support cases are often complicated and emotionally charged. We work diligently to provide you with legal advice that is relevant to your case and sensitive to your family’s needs. While our dedicated legal team strives to resolve child support issues through cooperative means when possible, we are prepared to fight to uphold your rights in court.
Both Parents Are Expected to Provide Child Support
Many parents believe that under Virginia laws, the parent without custody has all the responsibility for providing financial child support. The law actually places financial responsibility on the shoulders of both parents regardless of whether they are married.
Child support amounts are based on the combined income of both parents, with the idea that children should have the same standard of living as their parents. Just because both parents are expected to provide financial support for a child does not mean that the amounts required from each will be equal or even close to equal, however. A number of factors impact the determination of the amount of support each parent will be required to provide.
How Child Support Is Determined in Virginia
In essence, the primary goal of child support awards in Virginia is to ensure that children whose parents don’t live in the same household receive the same level of support as if their parents lived in the same home.
Calculations of a parent’s obligations start with a consideration of custody arrangements. Different guidelines apply when a child spends a significant amount of time staying with each parent, and physical custody is considered to be shared. The law presumes that while a child is living with a parent, that parent, that parent is expending considerable amounts to support the child.
If one parent has sole physical custody, a different formula is used to calculate support amounts. Of course, the calculations also include the income of both parents and any extenuating circumstances affect the cost of caring for the child or the parents’ ability to pay.
Calculating Child Support
To calculate a parent’s child support obligation, Virginia courts use a formula that the Department of Social Services established, put into law inVirginia Code §20-108.2. In fact, in some situations, the Department of Social Services issues child support orders outside of court. These carry the same weight as support orders implemented through the court system.
Virginia provides a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet for situations in which one parent has primary custody and Shared Custody Guidelines for situations in which a child lives with both parents for at least 90 night per year.
The Virginia child support calculator uses a formula that inputs the factors affecting a family’s situation to determine the amount of child support each parent should contribute. The parent responsible for a greater percentage of support will owe payments to the other parent monthly. The calculator will consider factors such as:
- Income from both parents
- Alimony either parent receives
- Daycare costs for the child
- The child’s health insurance costs
The minimum monthly payment amount for child support in Virginia is $68 per month.
The state utilizes the calculator to keep payment rates consistent for similar situations.
The knowledgeable team at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, could review how various factors apply in your case and whether claims made by the other parent are supported by fact. For instance, if a parent is seeking to have the child a certain number of nights each year not for the child’s welfare but to reduce support obligations, we could seek to hold this parent accountable so that they pay the fair share.
Child Support Modifications in Virginia
When financial situations or lifestyle needs change or your custody arrangements alter from the time of the original custody order, it may be possible to modify child support obligations.
Typically, you may request a child support modification hearing only after three years have passed since the initial ruling. However, you may be able to request a child support order modification earlier if:
- One parent's income has changed by at least 25%.
- The child is not eligible for the existing level of support.
- Health insurance premiums have increased or decreased by 25% or more
- A new child's birth requires adding another child to the child support order.
- The custody arrangement has changed between sole custody, split custody, or shared custody.
- Existing support orders do not include health care coverage obligations
- Existing support orders do not provide for unreimbursed medical or dental expenses
- A parent's income changed due to active duty for the National Guard or other military reserves.
- Childcare expenses have increased or decreased by at least 25%
While either parent may file a petition to modify a support decree if three years have passed since the last decree, the court may also initiate a motion to modify support, particularly if a request is made by the Virginia Department of Social Services.
Whether a parent is basing a request for modification on one the factors listed above or other changes in circumstances that they believe should impact child support obligations, they need to submit convincing justification and evidence to support a request for modification.
Will I Need to Go to Court for Child Support Modifications?
Although you and your former partner may be able to agree on the terms of your child support agreement, you will still need court approval of any child support modification. The custodial parent can still seek the child support amount of the original child support order if you fail to file for the modification or if a judge rejects the modification. While parents are free to negotiate an alteration out of court, if they do not get the change approved through proper channels, it is not enforceable.
When parents disagree about proposed modifications, each parent can present their arguments to the judge for a decision. An experienced family law attorney at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC could present a persuasive showing to demonstrate to the court why modification is warranted or should be denied.
How Often Can I Request a Modification?
If less than three years have passed since a support order was issued, the court will only grant a modification if you demonstrate that one of the exceptional circumstances has occurred, such as a considerable change in either the child's needs or the income of one or both parents. You can request a temporary change to the child support order for short-term changes such as a layoff, medical emergency, or illness.
How do you modify child support in VA?
Either parent may file the appropriate motions with the court to modify a child support order. You will generally need to file numerous forms such as a Motion for Review and Modification of Child Support and your documentation must explain the material change of circumstances justifying a modification. If both parties do not agree to the modification, they will each have the opportunity to present their arguments to the court for a decision.
It is not a good idea to deviate from the official child support plan until the court has approved a modification. Even if both parties agree to change support terms, that agreement would be unenforceable and could lead to significant problems.
How long do you have to wait to modify child support?
In many cases, a child support order cannot be modified unless three years have passed since the court last reviewed child support issues in the case. However, if certain changes have occurred, such as a change in custody or a 25% increase in health care premiums or childcare expenses, a parent may seek a modification sooner.
What age does child support end in VA?
Child support obligations generally cease when a child turns 18. However, if that child is still living with the custodial parent, is not self-supporting, and is still in high school, then the custodial parent may ask for support payments to continue until the child graduates high school or until they turn 19, whichever comes first.
In addition, if a child is permanently disabled and continues to live with the custodial parent, that parent may ask the court to continue child support obligations beyond age 18.
What is the minimum child support in VA?
Under the current child support guidelines, the minimum payment for a child support order would be $68 per month. This amount is subject to change at any time.
How do I reevaluate child support in VA?
A number of different factors go into setting the amount of support, so changes in these factors can justify a modification in a support order. Generally, if you’ve experienced a major increase in expenses related to the child (health care, childcare, etc.) or either parent undergoes a significant change in income (such as losing a job), then it is time to run the numbers through the Virginia child support formula to see if a modification is warranted. A family law attorney could assist in re-evaluating child support and help persuade the court that a modification is justified.
Is child support retroactive in VA?
Judges are allowed to award retroactive child support dating back to the time the petition for child support was filed. However, they cannot award support for the period before the action was filed in court unless both parents signed a written child support agreement. For that reason, it is wise to officially establish child support (through an agreement or filing in court) as soon as possible.
Work with an Experienced Virginia Child Support Lawyer
At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, our dedicated legal counselors are committed to helping families find their best fit in family law and child support. We know what’s at stake, and we will use all available opportunities to achieve your objectives without unnecessary delays or added expenses. To learn more about how we could help in your case, call us today at (888) 530-4374 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.