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What about Child Support?

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is well established that both parents owe a duty of child support for the benefit of their minor children.  Whether married or divorced, the non-custodial parent is obligated to pay support, without regard to status.

Virginia Code Section 20-108.1 et. seq. provides the statutory scheme governing matters of support.  In relevant part, support is calculated by taking into consideration the combined gross monthly income of both parties;  daycare expenses necessary for a party to work; and health care costs, paid by either party.  The child support formula also provides a deduction for child support amounts paid by the non-custodial parent for the benefit of other children from a previous marriage or relationship.  Courts will also consider reasonable business expenses of self-employed parents and allow adjustments for self-employment taxes.  Additionally, there are other instances that may allow for a deviation from the statutory guideline amount, which is preemptively correct.

Prior to 1988, there were no child support guidelines.  The process for determining support was rather ad hoc and often resulted in arbitrary decisions.   If the non-custodial parent was able to demonstrate that he/she had no disposable income following the payment of necessary living expenses, the custodial parent left the court with little or no support. This draconian result often forced custodian parents to seek Aide for Dependent Children (ADC); welfare and other government-sponsored support programs. Over time, the process became expensive and placed a tremendous drain on state coffers.  The Federal Government became fed up with this inequitable way of dealing with child support and concluded that it would no longer shoulder the non-custodial parent’s financial obligation. The Federal Government mandated that all states enact laws designed to unify the child support results, as a precondition to receiving federal funding.

Virginia enacted its first statute in 1988. Although the law has evolved over years, the goal has remained the same.  The Legislature is tasked with the obligation to enact laws that hold parents accountable for the financial support of their off-springs.  Even parents with zero income must pay a minimum statutory amount, now around sixty-eight dollars per month.  Further, parents who are unemployed or underemployed run the risk of having a judge impute income, in certain situations.

As studies continue to show there are better ways to adjust the cost of raising children, support guidelines will also continue to change.  Legislatures will continue to equalize the way support is calculated, and support awards will continue evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of society.

Thankfully, Virginia lawmakers have chosen a model that makes it easier for lawyers to advise their clients regarding support obligations.   Section 20-108.1, et., seq. represents the collective wisdom of lawmakers and provides a balanced approach to calculating support.  The guidelines start with a  presumption of correctness, thereby eliminates futile challenges to the amount of support the non-custodial parent must pay.  Therefore, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by having a lawyer run the child support guidelines, which are presumed to be accurate.

 

This blog is for informational purposes only and shall not be deemed as legal advice.