When we discuss the divorce process with new clients who are parents, they are often concerned with child custody and child support issues. In Virginia, both parents must provide support to their children. When the parents become divorced or separated, a Virginia court can order one parent to pay child support payments.
The main goal of Virginia child support laws is to ensure that both parents fulfill their legal obligation to support their children financially. Determining how child support is calculated in Virginia can be complicated. If you have questions about child support in Virginia, we recommend speaking to one of the experienced family law attorneys at Straw Law Firm. We will discuss how Virginia courts calculate child support payments below.
Determining Each Parent’s Monthly Gross Income
The first step in calculating Virginia child support payments involves determining each parent’s gross monthly income. When a family court judge decides whether one parent should pay the other parent payments for child support, the judge will consider each parent’s financial status. A parent’s “gross income” is broad and is not limited to a parent’s wages from his or her employer. Gross income includes any type of income the parent earns, such as:
- Trust income
- Wages or salary
- Severance pay
- Investment interest
- Capital gains
- Some Social Security benefits
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Disability insurance benefits
- Spousal support
- Prizes, gifts, or awards
- Unemployment insurance benefits
Parents can make certain types of deductions to their monthly gross income. For example, if one spouse already pays alimony to an ex-spouse who is not involved in the child support dispute, the paying spouse can deduct these payments from his or her monthly gross income. When a parent is self-employed, they can deduct certain types of business expenses and self-employment tax from their monthly gross income.
Virginia’s Schedule of Monthly Basic Child Support Obligations
Next, the family court will use Virginia’s schedule of monthly basic child support obligations. Courts use this schedule to determine how much one parent should pay in child support. The schedule, or table, outlines how much child support parents should pay at various income levels. The schedule lists different amounts of child support for each household income level and household side.
For example, parents with a grossly monthly income of $5,000 must pay $755 in child support per month for one child, $1136 per month for two children, $1,353 for three children, and $1,511 for four children. Understanding the schedule of monthly basic child support obligations can be confusing. The table lists different household income amounts, telling parents how much both parents need to set aside for their children every month.
In child support cases, Virginia courts will order both parents to pay the amount outlined in the schedule in proportion to their gross income. For example, imagine two parents have a combined income of $5,000 a month. The father earns 60% of the income and the mother earns 40% of the income. According to the schedule, the co-parents should expect to spend $1,136 per month on their child if they have one child together. In this scenario, the father would be responsible for paying $681.60 per month. The mother would be responsible for paying $454.40 per month.
Child Custody Affects Child Support Calculations in Virginia
The number of children in the family and the parents’ gross monthly income is not the only factors that affect the support calculation. Child custody arrangements also affect child support calculations in Virginia. Virginia recognizes three types of child custody arrangements, including:
- Sole custody: the child is in the physical custody of one parent for most of the year
- Shared custody: the child spends at least 91 days out of each year with one parent
- Split custody: the couple has two or more children, and each parent has custody of one or more children for most of the year
Consider the example given above. Suppose the father earns 60% of the parents can buy monthly income, and the mother has sole custody. In this scenario, the father would be required to pay 60% of the total child support obligation ($1,136) to the mother. However, what happens when both parents share custody of the child? Since the mother would not have full custody of the child and not need to spend as much money on the child, a judge will adjust the figure to account for the time the father spends for the child and pays for the child’s expenses.
Calculating Childcare and Healthcare Expenses
The amount of monthly basic child support obligation does not include child care or healthcare expenses, which can be costly. However, when one parent pays for all of the child’s vision, dental, and healthcare coverage, the court will add the expenses related to that coverage to the monthly support amount. If you are the parent who pays for your child’s health care expenses and childcare expenses, you will need to provide the court with documentation that verifies these costs.
Modifying Child Support Payments
Once the court has finalized a child support order, both parents must abide by the order’s terms. However, a parent can request the court to modify the payment amount with good reason. Both parents can request a modification of their child support order, but the judge will ultimately decide whether or not to approve these requests. It is important that you continue paying child support according to the judge’s order until the judge has ruled on your request for modification.
Contact a Lynchburg Child Support Lawyer Today
If you are going through a divorce and have questions about child support, or you would like to petition the court to modify your child support order, Straw Law Firm can help. Contact us to schedule your initial consultation today.