Virginia Child Support

Virginia child support laws are comprehensive because protecting the rights and interests of children is an important public policy goal in the state of Virginia. One of the most important rights that children have is the right to be supported by both of their parents, regardless of whether their parents are cohabiting or whether the child lives only or primarily with one parent. In order to ensure that every child is supported by both his mother and father, Virginia has established a series of laws and programs related to child support.

Obtaining Child Support in Virginia

In the state of Virginia, a court may issue an order of support in order to impose a legal obligation on a non-custodial parent to pay support for his children. An order of support is often issued as part of divorce proceedings or as part of a child custody case. However, support orders may also be issued as part of a separate legal action or action to establish paternity of a child.

When a custodial parent needs help finding a missing parent, proving paternity, getting a support order from the court or modifying a support order, the parent may get help from a Child Support District Office, which is part of the state's Child Support Enforcement division (DCSE). In Virginia, DCSE may also establish an administrative order for support. This allows for parents to avoid court action and to obtain child support without a court order. 

DCSE is operated through Virginia's Department of Human Services (DHS) and a list of regional offices can be found on the DHS website. Representatives from the program represent the Commonwealth of Virginia. Parents who need additional help with legal issues such as spousal support or divorce may need to contact a family law attorney for help with these legal matters, as the Child Support Enforcement division represents only the child and provides help only with support-related concerns.

Calculating Child Support in Virginia

To make sure that all children receive the support that they need, Virginia has established uniform child support guidelines in §20-108.2 of the Virginia Code. According to §20-108.2(a) these guidelines are presumed to apply in all child support cases. This means that if parents negotiate their own support agreement out of court, they will either need to use the guidelines to set the support amount or they will need to provide a compelling reason why their alternative to the guidelines is in the best interests of the child.

According to the guidelines, the combined monthly gross income of both parents and the number of children the parents have together are the key factors in determining support. Virginia provides a table with different combined incomes and specifies how much basic support the child/children of parents at that income level should receive. For instance, if two parent's combined make a total income of $800 per month and have one child together, the Child Support Schedule specifies that the parents are expected to spend a total of $168 per month caring for the child. If those same two parents had four children together, they'd be expected to spend a total of $231.

The guidelines specify that each parent will contribute a percentage of this basic support amount that is equal to the percent of the total family income he/she contributes. For instance, a parent who earned 20 percent of the family income would pay 20 percent of the total basic support amount due to the child. The non-custodial parent will become responsible for paying his/her portion of support to the custodial parent.

The non-custodial parent will also have to pay additional support to cover childcare and healthcare costs. However, if he/she has custody of the child for at least part of the time, the total support obligation owed will be reduced by an appropriate percentage based on the amount of time spent with the child.

Enforcing Virginia Child Support

The Department of Child Support Enforcement in Virginia is required by law to collect support payments made via wage attachment. Wage attachment assures that the payments for required child support are directly debited from the paying parent's paychecks. This money is sent directly to DCSE who distributes it to the custodial parent.

If a non-custodial parent does not pay his or her support as ordered, he/she may be held in contempt of court. A number of enforcement actions may also be taken to help parents collect support as ordered. For instance, a non-paying parent may be reported to the credit bureau, lose his professional license or driver's license, face criminal charges, have liens placed on his property and may have tax returns seized.

Modifying Virginia Child Support

Parents may request a modification of a support order every 36-months. DCSE will review the current support amount and the financial need of the child to determine if the current support amount needs to be adjusted. If it becomes necessary to make a change when 36 months has not yet passed, parents may request a review only if there is a material change in circumstances such as a change in the income of the parent or the needs of the child.

Getting Legal Help

Parents who have a simple child support case typically will be able to work through DCSE without legal advice. However, those who are divorcing, who have custody issues, or who wish to take the extra step to fully protect their legal rights should consider speaking with an attorney specializing in divorce law or child custody and support issues.