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It's true that Virginia is for lovers. But sometimes those lovers split up. When a couple goes through a divorce, Virginia child support laws are meant to minimize the negative financial impact the split might have on any of the couple's children. They do this by requiring each parent to make some contribution toward the money needed to raise the children. If you're going through a divorce, read on to learn about how Virginia law determines who will pay child support, how the amount of those payments is determined, and other important considerations.
The crucial distinction in deciding who pays child support is who will be the custodial parent. The custodial parent is the one who will be with ("in custody of") the child the majority of the time (Sec. 20-124.1). Since this parent has to cover a lot of the costs of raising a child -- from food and shelter to education and health care -- only the non-custodial parent will pay child support (Sec. 20-108.2(G)). Either the parents themselves or a court will decide who the custodial parent will be after a divorce (Sec. 20-107.2 and 20-124.1, et seq.).
You may think it's obvious what your income is: the money you get from your job. However, this may not tell the whole story, and a court will take many different things into account when determining how much you need to pay in child support (Sec. 20-108.2 and 20-108.1). These factors may include:
After your total income is determined, a set formula will be applied to see how much you owe. The end result is a grid that tells you how much you will pay based on your income and the number of children you have (Sec. 20-108.2).
The way the grid works is simple. The number of children is listed along the top of the grid, while your gross monthly income is listed along the left side. To see what you will pay, you simply find the point on each side of the grid that applies to your situation and trace down and across to find where they intersect. For example, if you have two children and you make $2,000 a month, you will pay $527 in child support.
It is critical to note, however, that the grid is not set in stone. The grid gives you an idea of what you should pay, but the court will give you the exact figure (Sec. 20-108.1).
In Virginia, a court order will often set up the child support payments, but this is not always the case. The department of social services also has the power to do this, but the process is identical to what the court uses (Sec. 20-108.2(A)). Additionally, if you're receiving public assistance, you may not have to submit an application on your own -- the Division of Child Support Enforcement, or DCSE, will do so on your behalf in most cases (Sec. 63.2-1903).
Read the full text of the Code of Virginia for more detail.
If you have children and you're facing divorce, separation, or paternity issues, you will have to figure out how your children will be financially supported. Conflicts often arise in determining custody, calculating a parent's income, establishing a child's paternity, and enforcing court-ordered child support.
Virginia offers several different options for mothers and/or fathers wishing to establish paternity, including low-cost DNA testing through the Division of Child Support Enforcement in addition to several private testing providers.
You can get started on your child support paperwork today by downloading the necessary forms from the Virginia Dept. of Social Services. The state also provides a child support guidelines worksheet to help parents reach a settlement.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified child support lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local child support attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.
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