Helping Your Child Get The Support They Deserve

If you are the parent of a child in Virginia, you are responsible for providing for your child, plain and simple. If you are the custodial parent, then the fact that you make financial contributions to your child's life is implied. If you are not the primary custodial parent, you will be subject to recurring child support payments via a court order. Even if you and the other parent share parenting time equally, the parent with more income can be required to pay child support to the other parent.

How Is The Amount Of Child Support Determined?

One question that both custodial and noncustodial parents often have is regarding the amount of child support they will be required to pay or entitled to receive. In Virginia, a child support formula is first determined via the state's presumptive child support guidelines. The child support amount is based on the child's needs, as well as the parents' ability to financially support the child's needs. The formula uses the gross incomes of each party and considers the number of children to be supported.

For this reason, parents who make more money and who have more children are liable for a greater amount of child support. While factors such as a child's special needs and the costs of child care and health insurance can certainly alter a child support amount, generally parents must combine their gross income to determine what they owe. If the state statute for "presumptive" child support is not fair, Virginia law contains factors that a court may consider while varying and rebutting the guideline amount, such as actual monetary support for other family members or former family members, arrangements regarding custody of the children, including the cost of visitation travel, any child care costs incurred on behalf of the child or children due to the attendance of a custodial parent in an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party's earning potential, and many other possible factors.

Keep in mind that only a parent's gross income is counted. This means that if you are getting remarried, your new spouse's income will not be considered when setting the child support guidelines.

Duration of child support is also important to be aware of and understand. Child support continues until a child is 18 and a high school graduate, but never past the age of 19. There are exceptions for disabled children over the age of 19 and living at home.

Establishing Paternity To Receive Child Support

It is important to note that only legal parents are responsible for child support, which means that if a father has not established legal paternity over a child, he will not be required to pay child support for that child. As a mother, making sure that paternity is established is essential if you want to seek child support; as a father, establishing paternity is critical to protecting your rights to visitation or custody of your child.

While paternity is established at birth when parents are married, if parents are unmarried, they may sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity form. Paternity may also be established through a court order after genetic testing.

Nan M. Joseph is an attorney who can help you establish paternity to gain a child support order or seek legal rights regarding your child.

Enforcing A Child Support Order

Once a child support order is entered by the court, it is legally binding and enforceable. This means that a parent must make his/her child support payment on time and in full. If he/she fails to do so, he/she could face consequences. When a child support payment goes unpaid, one can seek enforcement.

In some cases, the Virginia Department of Social Services — Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) is responsible for collecting child support payments and enforcing child support orders when parties are delinquent. A party can ask that child support be paid directly to the Department of Child Support Enforcement or by a wage withholding order from the salary of the paying parent. The DCSE has several enforcement tactics, the most common of which is wage withholding. In addition to wage garnishment, the DCSE has the power to file property liens against a delinquent party, report the debts to credit agencies, garnish tax refunds and even suspend licenses. In some cases, the DCSE may refer a case for court action. Many parents pay child support directly to the other parent and there is no DCSE involvement.

Modifying A Child Support Order

While some people are given a child support order that makes long-term sense and works throughout the duration of the order (typically until the child turns 18 and graduates from high school), this is not always the case. In many cases, circumstances change over the course of the child's life, and a support order is no longer sensible or possible to fulfill. When this is the case, either party may petition the court for a modification of a support order. A modification will be granted only when circumstances have changed significantly enough to justify the modification. If you are in a position where you need to modify a child support order, Nan M. Joseph can help.

Contact Nan M. Joseph Today For Legal Support You Can Count On

Knowing how much you are required to pay in child support, how to acquire a child support order, how to modify a child support order or how to enforce a child support order that's going unpaid can be confusing. Filing the correct documents with the court, gathering financial information and appearing before a judge can be intimidating, especially when you are reeling from a divorce.

At the family law offices of Nan M. Joseph, we fully understand what you are going through and are committed to helping you secure a child support order to provide you and your child with the financial assistance you need and deserve. She has more than 40 years' experience and is ready to take on your case. Contact us today in Leesburg at 703-777-7740 or online to learn more about how a lawyer can help.