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Basics of child support in Virginia

It is public policy in Virginia that both parents shall be liable for the financial responsibilities of raising a child, whether they are married, romantically involved, divorced or otherwise estranged. As such, Virginia courts have the authority to establish a child support order to compel a non-custodial parent to support the custodial parent in raising the child. This post will address some basic questions associated with child support, including who is liable for paying support, and how child support may be calculated.

Who is subject to a child support order?

Generally, the non-custodial parent is ordered by the court to pay support to the custodial parent. This will include biological and adoptive parents who do not have primary custody (or who share custody and have been ordered to pay support due to a significant difference in income). The parent who is ordered to pay support is called the obligor. The parent who receives such support is called the obligee.

Support payments are made directly to the custodial parent, who uses these payments to defray the costs of raising the child. A majority of men are ordered to pay child support, as they commonly held to be the non-custodial parent. Many who pay child support resent this obligation because they see it as a form of spousal maintenance, or they believe that such payments are merely used to finance a custodial parent’s lifestyle. However, these payments are to be used on the vital needs of the children, such as rent, food, and clothes. 

How is child support calculated?

Generally speaking, a family court judge will determine child support payments by combining each parent’s gross monthly income. Gross income includes compensation from regular employment, military pensions, unemployment compensation, and Social Security benefits based on the parent’s eligibility.

Gross income does not include child support or public assistance received, as well as court-ordered maintenance payments. Moreover, it does not include income from a parent’s current spouse or romantic partner. However, the court considers each parent’s responsibilities for non-joint children who live in their home, as well as other court-ordered support obligations for such children. 

After all adjustments are made, the final support amount is ordered based on each parent’s proportionate share of the combined income for child support, as it is applies to the statutory guidelines. For example, if a couple has a combined gross income of $5000, and the obligor earns $3200 compared to the obligee who earns $1800, the obligor will be ordered to pay 64 percent of the statutory amount for child support based on the parties’ combined income level.

Questions about child support

While Virginia law establishes support by using statutory guidelines, every family’s situation is different, and the court may find reason to deviate from them. An experienced family law attorney can analyze your situation and advise you on child support.

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