Anyone who has had a child can tell you that raising one can be very expensive. When couples with children divorce in Virginia, or unmarried couples split up, courts require both parents to help financially support their children until they are 19 or graduate from high school. To determine what a parent will pay in child support, several factors are considered.

Custody agreement

First, courts evaluate the child custody arrangement. If one parent has custody of the child most of the time, the other parent will likely need to pay child support payments. The courts assume that the parent who has the larger amount of custody time is already paying a lot of expenses for the child.

Income levels

Next, courts look at the gross income of both parents when determining child support. This includes not only their salaries, but any bonuses, commissions, severance pay or pensions.

For a rough estimate, if a couple jointly earns $6,000 a month and have one child in Virginia, child support will start at $821 a month. For two children, the amount increases to $1,226.

Other factors

However, child support amounts can fluctuate based on several factors. For example, if the child is not old enough for school, the parents will be paying higher childcare costs, which will impact the child support amount. Parents of older children may agree to equally split the costs of any extracurricular activities. Also, if a noncustodial parent carries health insurance for the child, the amount for that premium could be deducted for a child support payment.

Support modifications

Courts review child support amounts every three years to see if the support amount needs to be changed. If you end up losing a job or are forced to take a lower-paying job, you can request a child support modification before that time to lower the amount of child support you are paying.

Before negotiating a child support amount, it’s always best to consult a family law attorney. An attorney can help you determine what level of child support you might be entitled to or required to pay.