How to Calculate Child Support in Virginia

Child support can be an emotional and sometimes contentious issue in a divorce. A paying parent might feel they pay too much and get too little time with their children, while a receiving parent might feel they bear the majority of the child-rearing expenses.

Virginia, like other states, uses a formula to calculate minimum child support payments. With the minimum payment set by law, there is less opportunity for parents to act out their personal resentments and disagreements when deciding on child support.

Support is a Child’s Right

Parents sometimes misunderstand child support and consider it a payment they must make to their co-parent. Although the money is given to the co-parent, financial support from both parents is a child’s right.

Parents can make child support agreements that work for them and their situation, but a court must approve the arrangement. Courts review all agreements concerning children to protect the children’s rights and ensure the parents’ arrangements are in the children’s best interests. A child support attorney could explain the factors courts consider and help parents tailor their agreement accordingly.

Running the Numbers to Determine Child Support

Virginia Code § 20-108.2 establishes the state’s guidelines for child support. The state publishes a child support calculator worksheet that considers each parent’s gross income, the number of other children they support, and health care costs for the couple’s children. The parents can adjust the payment obligation if they share custody, or if the children spend significant time living with each parent.

Parents are free to deviate from the amount the formula produces, but they must demonstrate why the formula amount is inappropriate in their case. Whether the parents come up with a plan or a judge must decide, Virginia Code § 20-180.1B requires a court to consider multiple factors, including the:

  • Standard of living the child enjoyed while the parents lived together
  • Child’s special needs, including any physical or mental health conditions or educational challenges
  • Earning capacity, debts, obligations, and needs of each parent
  • Whether the parents’ property division agreement gives either parent access to property that earns income
  • Payments either parent makes to provide the child with health insurance, life insurance benefits, or other benefits
  • Custodial parent’s work or school-related childcare costs
  • Debts either parent incurred for the child’s benefit

In addition to these factors, a judge can consider any other facts they deem relevant to establishing a fair child support payment.

Sometimes a parent might under-report their income to limit child support. Doing so is fraud, and a court could severely punish a parent who takes this action. Similarly, sometimes people intentionally limit their income and earn less than others with similar qualifications and experience. If a judge believes someone might be intentionally underemployed to avoid paying or reduce child support, they could impute income to the underemployed parent.

Child Support Modifications are Possible

A court usually issues an original child support order when a couple divorces, but parents’ circumstances and children’s needs might change as time passes. When a child support arrangement no longer works well for a family, either parent or both parents could request a modification.

Parents could agree on how to modify their support arrangement. However, the change is not official until the court approves it. A judge must review any change and confirm that it is in the children’s best interests before issuing a modified child support order.

If parents do not agree to modify child support, the parent seeking the change must demonstrate that a substantial change in circumstances justifies a modification. An attorney could review a parent’s situation and advise whether seeking a modification in court is a viable option in a specific case.

Work With a Virginia Attorney on Child Support Issues

If you and your co-parent are struggling with child support issues, consult an attorney for help. They could explain what the law requires and help you reach an agreement.

Child support disputes can get technical, so having a seasoned child support lawyer to guide you could be invaluable. Schedule a consultation today to learn more.