Child Support Laws in Virginia

Virginia law requires that each parent makes some contribution toward the money needed to raise a child. This is done naturally, in most cases, with parents who are married, but this mindset becomes very important when considering a divorce. Even after the split, the law requires that both parents help with that support total, which is why child support payments are often required.

The financial basis for the payments comes from the amount of money that the parents make, combining those figures for an overall total. The idea is to recreate the amount of money that the child would have enjoyed if the parents had stayed together, thereby ensuring the divorce does not have a negative impact on him or her.

Custodial Parents

A crucial distinction in Virginia is who will be the custodial parent. This could be awarded in a divorce case, or it could be agreed upon by the parents when they split. The custodial parent is the one who tends to be with the child the majority of the time. Since this parent naturally has to cover a lot of costs -— from food to utilities -— the non-custodial parent cannot ask to be paid child support. Only the parent who takes a bigger role in the child's custody can do so.

Filing Distinctions

As noted, a court order will often set up the child support payments, but this is not always the case. The department of social services in Virginia also has the power to do this, and the process is identical to what the court would utilize. Moreover, if you are getting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, you may not have to put in any application on your own. In most cases, the Division of Child Support Enforcement, or DCSE, will do so on your behalf.

What Is Income?

On the face of it, you may think it is obvious what your income is: the money you get from your job. However, this may not tell the whole story, and the court will take many different things into account when determining how much needs to be paid in child support. These things could include:

  • Your salary
  • Any commission earned
  • Hourly wages
  • Bonuses
  • Your pension
  • Severance pay
  • Any dividends
  • Veterans benefits
  • Social Security payments
  • Disability or workers' compensation payments
  • And more

After the amount that is actually being earned is determined, a set formula will be applied to see how much you owe. While many calculations have been put into this, the end result is a grid that is quite easy to read and understand. The grid is an example, to give you a close idea of what the payment will be.

The Grid

The way that the grid works is simple: Along the top, the number of children being claimed is listed. Along the left side, the gross monthly income is listed. You simply find the point on each side that applies to your case, trace down and across to find where they intersect, and the grid tells you exactly what you owe.

For example, if you have only one child and you make just $400 a month -— the grid moves in $50 increments, so rounding to these levels is permitted —- then you would have to pay $78 in child support. If you make $1,000 a month and have two children, the support requirement is $285. If you are paid $5,000 a month and have two children, it jumps to $1,136. The chart goes all the way up to six children on the top and $35,000 on the left side.

Once again, it is critical to note that the grid is not set in stone, and the court actually uses a formula to look at your income and settle on a percent -— the top range is usually 25 percent —- that will be used. The grid gives you an idea of what you should pay in total, but the court will give you the exact figure. Always pay this amount, even if it differs from the grid.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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