How Child Support Obligations Are Determined in Virginia Divorces and Other Custody Disputes

Child Support Payments and How They Are DeterminedIn Virginia, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. This is true whether or not the parents were married and whether or not the non-custodial parent has or exercises visitation rights. However, this does not mean that the parents will split the costs of support right down the middle or swap checks. Here, we explain the basics of how child support could be calculated in your Virginia divorce or another proceeding to enforce child support obligations.

How Can You Determine Child Support Payments in Virginia?

Virginia has established uniform guidelines for the calculation of child support, and the amount set by the guidelines is presumed to be the accurate amount. However, some modifications in these rules were made in 2014, so a support order entered into prior to that date may need to be modified. The court will use the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet in setting the amount of child support that the non-custodial parent should pay. Here are the basics of how this works:

  • Basic child support amount. The basic child support obligation is computed through the use of a table that presumes how much parents at different income levels will need to support their children. The payment is based on the total gross income of both parents and the number of children they have together. Gross income includes salaries, wages, bonuses, capital gains, and interest, but does not include child support, spousal support, and many government benefits.
  • Childcare and insurance. The amount of childcare and health, vision, and dental insurance premiums are added to the basic support amount.
  • Custody arrangement. The type of custody arrangement that you have will determine which formula is used to calculate the non-custodial parent’s child support obligations. Custody arrangements can be sole physical custody to one parent, shared custody where the child stays with each parent at least 91 days, or split custody. Split custody can be applicable if the parents have more than one child and each parent has custody of at least one child for most of the year.

Once the child support obligations are set, they are apportioned between the parents based on each of their incomes, with the parent making more money owing a larger amount of the child support. For example, the parent who earns 60 percent of the combined income would be responsible for paying 60 percent of the child support obligation.

While you can use the worksheet to estimate your child support obligations, the actual calculations are complex. In addition, factors, such as a parent’s voluntarily unemployment or underemployment, special needs of a child, and parental support of other family members, can be used to challenge just using the child support guidelines to determine the amount of child support.

If you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, you need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney to ensure that the child support obligations are set fairly and taken into account for your unique situation. Call our office today to schedule your consultation to learn more about your child support obligations under Virginia law.