The topic of child support in Virginia goes hand-in-hand with the topics “child custody” and “child visitation arrangements.” Depending on the custodial arrangement, the amount of child support can be quite different. In other words, the child support paid to a primary physical custodian where the other parent only has visitation with the child every other weekend will be quite different (and more) than the child support in a shared custodial arrangement where both parties have equal parenting time with the child. On top of that, other items are factored into the equation such as health insurance and child care costs. Not to complicate matters for military folks, but issues of relocation can also have some bearing on a child custody arrangement – and therefore also affect child support.
In Virginia, if the custodial arrangement ordered by a court or agreed to by the parties provides that a child will have more than ninety (90) days of overnight visitation (each lasting for a 24 hour period or more) per year with the non-custodial parent, the amount of child support paid to the primary custodial parent will (in most instances) be reduced. The courts generally recognize a need to reduce child support when the other (paying) parent is taking care of the child more during the year. In a perfect scenario, this makes sense. When the child is spending time with the non-primary physical custodian, that other parent is naturally feeding that child or taking care of his or her needs during that time. The courts will recognize this expense and therefore reduce the amount of child support that will be paid to the receiving spouse. Conversely, if the non-custodial parent only has parenting time with the child four days per month, the amount of child support payable to the primary custodian will most likely be that much more.
As discussed in detail in the “Child Visitation Arrangements” link, there is not just one right answer or “one-size-fits-all” for a child custody arrangement. Each family has unique routines and activities, as well as proximity to other family members. Some parents are extremely involved with activities or coaching sports that the children are involved in. These factors, and many others, can dictate the best custodial arrangement in a case.
In a perfect scenario, or at least as good a scenario as there can be in the divorce world, the parents will communicate with one another to determine the right arrangement for the family with minimal disruption on the children. Divorce does not need to be the destruction of a family relationship, but often can be just a rearrangement of how the family unit works.
How it works in Virginia…
Virginia has adopted a child support model that is formulaic and is based on the number of children and the relative incomes of the parties. The statutes governing child support in the Virginia Code are Sections 20-108.1, 20-108.2 and 20-107.2.
A good starting point is to click on the link below for Section 20-108.2 of the Code of Virginia: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+20-108.2 This code section is particularly useful in that it actually contains a grid for presumed child support amounts based on combined monthly incomes and the number of children in the family. This can be an extremely complicated calculation and it is advised to speak with an attorney to make sure that the calculation is correct and that the amount negotiated for is proper. For example, the fine print towards the bottom of this particular code section factors in child care expenses and health insurance costs and how these costs are allocated to the proper child support amounts. On top of that, as mentioned above, the amount of time the child or children spend with the non-custodial parent can also impact the child support amounts.
Many attorneys have a computer program where the monthly income of the parties is inputted, as well as the number of children, amount of health and child-care costs, and the relative amount of time the child or children spend with each parent. This computer program then calculates the appropriate amount of support. While the Virginia Code Section listed above (§20-108.2) is instructive, it is best to speak with an attorney to make sure the complete picture is accurately portrayed and that the proper monthly amount of child support is allocated appropriately.
While the discussion above indicates that the Guidelines found in the Virginia Code shall be presumed in most cases…this is not the end of the story. A court is required by statute to review all evidence presented relevant to any issues joined in that proceeding. In order to rebut this presumption of guideline support, the court shall make written findings in the event that the application of such guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. The court will look to several factors in deciding whether or not to stray from the guideline amounts. There are 14 factors listed in Virginia Code §20-108.1. This Virginia code section can be found here: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+20-108.1
The Whole Story…
Child support calculations can be complicated and confusing. The Virginia Code Sections relevant to child support can also be hard to understand. To complicate matters further, if there are computations of spousal support being considered at the same time, the child support amounts could be affected.
As mentioned above, many attorneys have computer programs that allow for various scenarios and inputs unique to each situation. These program will calculate “guideline” support, and they can also calculate a combination of child and spousal support at the same time. In addition, these programs take into account and accurately factor each element underlying a support calculation. It is not just a matter of plugging in the relative income amounts of each party per month and then matching up the guideline amount with the number of children. Many other factors must be considered. As with so many items involved in a divorce case, seeking the advice of an attorney is absolutely advised. The last thing in the world you would ever want to learn is that the amount of child support requested to a Judge was under-reported because an important issue was overlooked. Issues of health insurance and childcare, among many others, can change the amount of guideline support – sometimes into the hundreds of dollars per month. There is no substitute for discussing each unique situation with an attorney, calculating the proper amount utilizing a child support computer program with an attorney, and then presenting evidence and supporting documentation, as well as arguing for the proper amount in a child support hearing before a Judge.