The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that it costs $233,610 (excluding the cost of college) for a middle-income couple to raise a child in today’s economy. This may seem like an exorbitant amount, but it makes sense when you calculate your child’s daily needs and annual expenses. For instance, a single family can rack up to $13,000 a year just to provide their child with food, clothing, shelter, health services, and more.
For this reason, family law courts in Virginia never establish child support arrangements that fail to benefit the immediate and long-term needs of a child. After all, it’s unfair to expect the custodial parent to manage those childcare costs alone, especially when their co-parent is earning regular wages.
There are many legal penalties associated with violating a child support order. If a parent is delinquent in their monthly payment, their former spouse can request legal assistance by filing an enforcement action. The Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) has the authority to locate delinquent parents and modify or enforce child support obligations.
If a parent falls behind on their payments, they may be subject to:
- Income withholding
- Property liens
- Tax refund interception
- Driver’s license suspension
- Contempt proceedings
At the same time, Virginia courts are also aware that life is a bumpy road characterized by financial highs and lows. If you’re experiencing a significant change in your personal or economic circumstances, you may be able to request a child support modification that serves both you and your child.
Virginia Code Section 20-108.2
Per Virginia Code Section 20-108.2, you have an obligation to pay child support until your child is 18 years old. However, this also depends on your child’s individual situation. Some parents need to make payment for an extra year if their child is still in high school and not self-supporting. Of course, this deadline can be extended if your child has a medically diagnosed disability.
Fortunately, both parents can request child support modifications that reflect their change in circumstances. For example, if a paying spouse gets a promotion or starts a new career that provides a hefty wage increase, the custodial parent can legally request a correlating change in the monthly payment amount. On the other hand, a paying spouse can’t be expected to make the same payments if their employment is suddenly terminated.
The court has the authority to modify a child support degree so long as the petition is filed by a parent or a probation office of the Department of Social Services. Regardless of your circumstances, it’s important to retain legal representation before you take the plunge and request a child support modification.
Parents can request a modification under the following circumstances:
- One parent loses their job
- One parent’s income changes by at least 25%
- A child needs to be added to the order
- The child’s financial or medical needs have changed
- The child is no longer eligible to receive financial support
- They paying parent has other children that require financial support
- The custody agreement isn’t being upheld by one parent
- The paying parent is in jail or prison
Before granting your request, the judge needs to review your petition and weigh it against the needs of your child. The court can’t approve any post-divorce modification that doesn’t serve your child’s best interests, especially in the case of child support. For this reason, it’s important to file your petition as soon as the need arises. For instance, if you’ve lost your job, it’s in your best interest to request a modification before starting a new career. Even if you accept a significant pay cut, the court may not have grounds to support your request. There are countless factors that can influence your case result, so it’s best to discuss your specific situation with an experienced family law attorney who can effectively negotiate and litigate on your behalf.
Explore Your Legal Options with a Qualified Family Lawyer
If you require a post-divorce modification, call The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller. Our experienced legal team can help you navigate each phase of this complex legal process. With Attorney Dan Miller on your side, you can confidently pursue a modification that addresses your current situation while still accommodating your child’s greater needs. During your appointment, our lawyer can listen to your story, explain your legal options, and start devising a case strategy that reinforces your need for a child support modification.