In divorces that involve children, child support is often a contentious issue. It's no wonder as to why—the outcome of a child support case can heavily impact the financial stability of both parents post-divorce.
To that end, understanding how Virginia courts calculate child support is vital for parents entering a divorce. Knowing what to expect from your child support case can help you prepare for life post-divorce and fight for the best outcome for you and your child.
Understanding Child Support in Virginia
The purpose of child support is simple. Courts want to try and ensure that, when two parents get a divorce, their children maintain the same quality of life post-divorce that they enjoyed while the parents were married. Child support arrangements help courts achieve that goal, ensuring that both parents have enough financial stability to provide for their children.
In Virginia, the noncustodial parent typically pays the custodial parent (who the child lives with a majority of the time) child support. Since custodial parents often shoulder most of the costs for caring for a child, they often pay no child support.
Child support in Virginia is based on gross monthly income. Gross monthly income covers a wide range of income sources, including:
- Paychecks or salary. This often makes up the bulk of an individual's gross income.
- Wages, commissions, and bonuses. Extra sources of income like commissions from side gigs or performance bonuses also count toward the gross monthly income.
- Severance pay, pensions, veterans benefits, worker's compensation, disability, unemployment insurance, and Social Security. All of the most common benefits also count toward gross monthly income.
- Miscellaneous income sources. Lottery winnings or other sources like investment account earnings can also apply to the gross monthly income.
Gross monthly income combines these income streams before taxes or other deductions.
During the child support process, the court evaluates all of a noncustodial parent's income sources to determine their gross monthly income. The court then uses a formula to establish how much child support the noncustodial parent owes using their gross monthly income and the number of children they're supporting.
You can find Virginia's child support guidelines here.
Scroll down a little and you'll find a graph that shows how much parents owe in child support based on their gross monthly income and how many children they have. For example, using the graph, we can see that a parent who brings in $3,050 per month in gross monthly income and has two children owes around $768 in child support.
Is a Child Support Arrangement Set in Stone?
In a word, no.
A huge variety of factors can play into child support arrangements, including:
- Whether the child receives support from other family members;
- What the parent's custody arrangement is like (if the parents essentially have a 50/50 custody split, for example, neither party is likely to pay much in child support);
- How other court-orders like spousal support impact the noncustodial parent's income;
- Each parent's financial situation (a custodial parent who is exceptionally well off or can easily pay for childcare expenses may not receive much in child support, for example);
- Whether the child has any financial resources of their own (such as a job if they're old enough, or a savings account subsidized by parents or relatives);
- The parent's behavior throughout the marriage;
- Whether the parents may experience income shifts in the near future (such as benefitting from the sale of the marital home, whether one parent will likely start earning more soon, etc.);
- Any other factors the court considers pertinent to the case.
As you can see, the court has a large amount of leeway when presiding over child support arrangements. A child support attorney can help you protect your parental rights and fight for a genuinely equitable child support arrangement.