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How Child Support Is Calculated in Virginia

Safi, Duran & Chim, PLLC March 15, 2024

Child support represents a legal obligation that aims to safeguard the financial well-being of a child following the separation or divorce of their parents. This financial support helps cover the expenses related to the child's living conditions, education, healthcare, and overall upbringing. The significance of child support extends beyond just the monetary aspect; it embodies a parent's commitment to their child's welfare and development, ensuring they have the resources necessary to thrive even in the wake of family changes.

In Virginia, child support is primarily calculated using the state's Child Support Guidelines, which use a formula to establish fair and equitable support. This formula considers several factors, such as the income of both parents, the number of children requiring support, and the cost of health insurance, daycare, and other essential child-related expenses.

Additionally, the calculation method adjusts the amount of support based on custody arrangements, that is, whether one parent has sole physical custody or if there is a shared custody situation. The objective behind these guidelines is to make sure child support obligations reflect the financial circumstances of both parents, all while prioritizing the child's needs and standard of living.

If you need help with child support after a separation or divorce, reach out to our firm, Safi, Duran & Chim, PLLC. Located in Fairfax, Virginia, we happily serve clients throughout Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Arlington County, Fauquier County and Clark County.  

Understanding Virginia's Child Support Guidelines 

Virginia's Child Support Guidelines are outlined in the Virginia Code Section 20-108.2 with the primary aim of covering a child's basic needs. These guidelines are designed to make sure that children receive the same level of financial support they would have if their parents were living together. The specific factors considered in Virginia's Child Support Guidelines include:

  • Parental Income: The combined monthly gross income of both parents is taken into account. 

  • Number of Children: The number of children who require support can influence the calculation of support and adjust the amount accordingly. 

  • Healthcare Costs: Expenses related to the child’s healthcare, including insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, are factored in. 

  • Educational Expenses: Special considerations are given for any necessary educational expenses that the child might have. 

  • Daycare Costs: The cost of daycare, babysitting, or other childcare services needed due to the employment, job search, or education of the custodial parent is included. 

  • Custodial Arrangements: The amount of time each parent spends with the child can affect the child support calculation. Virginia law recognizes different custody arrangements, from sole to shared custody, and each has implications on the support calculations. 

  • Extraordinary Expenses: Any unusual expenses, which may include special needs or extracurricular activities, are considered on a case-by-case basis.  

These guidelines are employed to ensure a fair contribution from both parents toward the well-being and upbringing of their child.  

Income Shares Model 

Virginia uses an "income shares model" to calculate child support. This model recognizes that both parents have a financial responsibility toward their children, regardless of who has physical custody, and takes into account the combined incomes of both parents, incorporating their earnings from sources such as wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, and even investments. 

To calculate child support, the parents' combined gross income is multiplied by a percentage based on the number of children that need support. For example, if there is one child, the percentage would be 20% of the total income; if there are two children, the percentage would increase to 25%. 

This amount is then divided proportionally between the parents according to each parent's income. Imagine a pie symbolizing the total income of both parents. The child support allocated to each parent is determined by their respective portion of this pie. 

Modifying Child Support 

After a child support order has been established in Virginia, either parent may request a modification if there has been a significant change in circumstances. This could be a change in circumstances of either the parents or the children. In Virginia, several circumstances may warrant a modification of child support, including:

  • Change in Income: A significant increase or decrease in either parent's income can lead to a child support modification. 

  • Unemployment: If a parent becomes unemployed or faces job loss, this could be grounds for adjusting the child support amount. 

  • Change in Custodial Arrangement: Modifications in the child's living situation or custody arrangements might affect child support calculations. 

  • Additional Healthcare Needs: Changes in the health of the child or the necessity for additional healthcare services that were not previously required could necessitate a modification. 

  • Additional Educational Expenses: Introduction of or alteration in educational expenses for the child, such as private schooling or special education needs. 

  • Birth of Additional Children: The financial responsibility for additional children in either parent's household can affect the ability to maintain current child support levels. 

  • Legal Requirements: Changes in legal requirements or updates in state guidelines for child support calculations could necessitate adjustments. 

It is important for parents to note that these changes do not automatically result in child support modification. Modifications can only be made through the court system. A formal request must be submitted, and the court must approve any changes to the child support agreement. 

Arguing for Fair Child Support in Virginia 

When navigating child support cases in Virginia, it's crucial for parents to understand how to present their situation. Arguing for fair child support involves detailed preparation and an insightful approach to presenting evidence and arguments. Here are steps to consider:

  • Gather Financial Documentation: Comprehensively collect all financial documents, including income statements, tax returns, expenditures related to the child’s needs, and any evidence of financial responsibilities for the child. Both parents will need to provide accurate and complete financial documentation. 

  • Understand the Guidelines: Familiarize yourself with Virginia's Child Support Guidelines to understand how they apply to your unique situation. Highlight any aspects of the guidelines that you believe have not been appropriately considered in your case. 

  • Consider the Child's Needs: Prepare a detailed account of the child's needs, including their education, healthcare, daily living expenses, and special needs or extracurricular activities. Demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of these needs can influence the court's assessment of what constitutes “fair” support. 

  • Document Changes in Circumstances: If you're looking to modify an existing child support order and there has been a significant change in circumstances since that order was finalized, document these changes meticulously. Whether it's a change in financial capacity, custodial arrangements, or the child’s needs, such evidence can be pivotal in arguing for a modification. 

  • Legal Representation: Consult with a family law attorney who is well-versed in Virginia's child support laws. An experienced attorney can provide valuable insights into the legal process, help in the preparation of your case, and argue on your behalf in court.  

  • Focus on the Best Interest of the Child: Throughout your argument, maintain your focus on the best interest of your child. Courts are primarily concerned with ensuring that child support arrangements serve the child’s needs and well-being, not the parent's. 

Enforcing Child Support Orders in Virginia 

For parents struggling to meet their child support obligations, it’s important to proactively seek modification rather than fall into noncompliance. The non-payment of child support can lead to legal penalties, including contempt of court charges, which may result in fines or even jail time.  

Knowledgeable Legal Help 

At Safi, Duran & Chim, PLLC, we emphasize the importance of understanding your legal obligations and rights regarding child support. Failure to comply with a child support order can have serious legal consequences, but there are avenues available for parents struggling to meet their obligations. Our experienced attorneys can guide you through arguing for fair support as well as enforcing and modifying child support orders, ensuring that the best interests of your child are maintained and that you are treated fairly.