The practice of family law relating to child support has changed dramatically in recent years, both nationally and in Virginia. The changes make it especially important for parents to understand the law and its application.
Virginia law makes it clear that both parents owe their child a duty of support until their child reaches 18 years of age or so long as their until their child is a full-time high school student, not self-supporting, and living in the home of the parent seeking support until their child reaches 19 years of age or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.
Effective July 1, 1996, the obligation to pay child support may also continue past emancipation where the child is severely and permanently disabled and unable to support and care for himself.
Crazy as it may sound, there is no presumption that each parent must contribute equally to the support of their child, even if they earn the same income. The court may require one parent to pay more than half of the support if the other parent provides considerably more non-monetary contributions to the well-being of their child.
Calculating the Amount of Support Owed
The general rule in Virginia is that the amount of child support owed depends upon the child’s needs and the ability of a parent to provide support. The goal, in general, is to provide child support based upon the parent’s ability to pay and to maintain the children according to the standard of living established during the marriage or to which a parent has accustomed them.
The ability of a parent to pay support is determined by the actual income of the payor parent and the ability to earn. The payor parent assumes the risk of a voluntary reduction in income when a parent makes a career change, expecting increased income. If the career change results in a reduction of income, the court may impute income to that parent when determining child support. In most circumstances, it would not be smart for a Physician, earning a six-figure salary to quit and become a store clerk, with the intent of lowering his child support obligation; the court would very likely treat him as if he were still earning those six-figures.
Pursuant to Virginia Code §20-107.2, when determining child support the court must consider the following factors:
- The age, physical and mental condition of the child;
- The independent resources of the child, if any;
- The standard of living of the family established during the marriage;
- The earning capacity, obligations and needs, and financial resources of each parent;
- The education and training of each parent and the opportunity to secure such education and training;
- The contributions, monetary and non-monetary to the well=being of the family;
- The provisions made regarding marital property; and
- The equities of the parents and the child.
Although the child support guidelines are presumed to be the appropriate amount owed, the factors set forth in Virginia Code §20-107.2 are still relevant in determining whether the presumptive amount is “unjust or inappropriate” in permitting a deviation.
In general, there are three (3) adjustments the court is required to apply when determining child support:
- Extraordinary Medical Expenses: Such expenses are defined as uninsured expenses more than $100 for a single illness or condition;
- Cash Medical Support: This comes into play as a supplement for child health insurance and support where there is either no insurance or inadequate insurance to meet a child’s medical needs and;
- Work-Related Child Care Costs: Such costs shall be added to the basic monthly child support obligation where the costs are due to the employment of the custodial parent. These costs shall not exceed the amount required to provide quality care from a licensed source.
Child Support calculations can be confusing and intimidating. If you are subject to a Child Support Petition or are seeking Child Support, we highly recommend you consult with one of Smith Law Firm’s compassionate, experienced, and knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys.