Child support is the amount of money one parent pays to the other parent to help with the expenses involved with raising a child, including food, shelter, clothing, etc. Every state has different laws outlining how divorces with children are to be done and how child support is to be calculated. The guidelines for child support in Virginia apply to divorces granted within the state and other child support cases over which Virginia courts have jurisdiction. In Virginia, children are entitled to financial support from both of their parents until they turn 18 years old and beyond 18 years for children who are (i) full-time high school students, (ii) not self-supporting, and (iii) live in the home of the party seeking or receiving child support, until these children reach the age of 19 or graduate from high school, whichever occurs first. Also, child support can continue into adulthood for children who are severely disabled.
If child support is determined at a hearing in Virginia, the judge will run the Virginia Child Support Guidelines, which are considered presumptively correct. Additionally, in most child support negotiations, the Guidelines play at least some part. Having Fairfax divorce lawyers that fully understand family law and child support laws is important when figuring out payments.
Several key factors play a role in running the Virginia Child Support Guidelines:
- How many children are involved.
- Whether one parent has sole custody or parents have joint or split custody.
- The gross monthly income of both parents.
- The amount of alimony, if any, one or both of the parents receives from a prior marriage.
- The monthly health insurance premium cost incurred on behalf of the children and which parent pays for this cost.
- The average monthly cost of work related childcare and which parent pays for this cost (if both parents pay for work related childcare, both of their costs will factor into the calculation).
Other factors may also impact the amount of child support paid. For example, if one of the parents is self-employed or a partner in a business, reasonable business expenses may be subtracted from their income.
Child support is formally established by an order issued by the court. Even parents who are amicably divorcing and are able to reach agreement about the amount of support themselves need to submit a consent order, with this amount, to the court for entry (i.e., a judge’s signature). Otherwise, if the parent who is supposed to being paying child support stops paying, a Virginia court has no power to enforce the parents’ agreement; i.e., it will be as if the agreement did not exist.
Failure to Pay Penalties
If the parent who is supposed to being paying child support fails to pay, the other parent may take them to court for enforcement purposes. There are a number of actions the court can take:
- The court may garnish the parent’s wages or income tax return.
- The parent may lose his or her driver’s license.
- The parent may be incarcerated.
- The parent may lose his or her professional or recreational license (teacher’s license, contractor’s license, hunting or fishing license, etc.) after 90 days of non-payments or if the amount owed is greater than $5,000.
Unpaid child support will also become subject to interest.
If a parent who is supposed to be being paying child support has had a change in their finances and is no longer able to pay the amount of court-ordered child support, they may petition the court for a child support modification rather than simply stop paying.
Virginia Statue of Limitations
In 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision in Adcock v. Department of Social Services established that the statute of limitations on child support obligations is 20 years. The ruling established that child support payments had a set due date and were not ongoing obligations. Thus, Virginia Code 8.01-251 (A) did apply. This places a 20-year statute of limitations on each payment, beginning from the date that the payment is due. Each payment counts as a separate judgment. This means that in some cases, the statute of limitations may have expired on some payments but not on others.
A Complicated System
Child support in Virginia is not always a clear-cut subject. Many different factors are taken into account when determining payments. Parents going through a divorce or who are seeking a modification to their court-ordered child support may wish to seek legal assistance due to the complexity of the child support laws. Be sure to research any child support lawyer in Arlington VA to find the one that best fits your needs and understands the State child support laws.