Leesburg Child Support Attorneys
Changes in Virginia’s Child Support Laws
Your child support payments are potentially changing, whether you are the parent paying support or you are the parent receiving it. Consulting with the right Leesburg child support attorney as to how this change affects your monthly budget is critical to your family’s financial situation. Contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to see how this change affects your child support.
In the 2014 legislative session, the Virginia General Assembly changed the guidelines substantially with HB933. The new law essentially does three things:
- Specifies the parent paying support’s monthly child support obligation on the basis of gross monthly income in increments up to $35,000 using a very different schedule from the old guidelines.
- Allows a judge to set a support obligation below the guidelines for parents who earn up to 150% of the federal poverty level if such amount does not “seriously impair(s)” the custodial parent’s ability to “maintain adequate housing and provide other basic necessities for the child” or children.
- Removes the $250 minimum on reasonable and necessary unreimbursed medical or dental expenses that parents are required to pay before they split the rest in proportion to their gross incomes.
How Child Support is Determined
Whether you are calculating child support under the old or the new guidelines, the basis for the calculation is still the same. First, the court looks at the income of both parents. It is important to remember the court looks at gross income (before taxes), not your net income or “take home pay.” Virginia law defines gross income to be basically any income, including but not limited to a person’s salary, wages, commission, royalties, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits except as listed below, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, veterans benefits, rental income, gifts, prizes or awards. If you are a spouse or former spouse receiving spousal support (alimony), that support is also considered income to you. If you are paying spousal support, this amount is deducted from your gross income. Gross income does not include some forms of welfare benefits, federal supplemental security income benefits or child support payments received. Gross income also does not include income from a second job a person gets to pay off child support arrearages. If you are self-employed, one half of your self-employment tax is deducted from your gross income. Contact our Leesburg child support attorneys for more information.
The child support guidelines are also calculated taking into consideration a custodial parent’s child care expenses. However the amount for child care cannot exceed the cost of quality care from a license source (i.e. a nanny or au pair). It is important to note that where the non-custodial parent is available to provide child care the court will consider this fact in determining how to calculate the guidelines.
Child support payments also take into consideration the costs for health insurance and dental insurance coverage directly allocable to the child or children over and above the costs for a family or individual plan.
Finally, the court will consider the custodial arrangement between the parents in calculating the guideline support amount. There are three types of custodial arrangements for purposes of child support:
- Sole Custody Support. In sole custody support arrangements, the non-custodial parent has less than 90 24-hour periods with the child or children in any given year. In such arrangements, the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent child support based on the basic guidelines.
- Split Custody Support. In split custody support arrangements, the parties have multiple children and each parent has primary custody of one or more of the children. In such arrangements, the amount of child support to be paid is the difference between the amounts owed by each parent as a non-custodial parent, with the non-custodial parent owing the larger amount paying the difference to the other parent.
- Shared Custody Support. When the parent who has the child or children less time has custody of them 90 or more 24-hour periods are year, the shared custody guideline is used (which is similar to the sole custody guideline) and child support is generally lower. However, if the sole custody support guideline amount is less than the shared custody support guideline amount, the lower number is paid.
The child support guidelines will also take into consideration a child or children of either parent from another relationship unless the court finds that this would be inappropriate in some way. If the court takes the other child or children into consideration, the guideline calculation can be greatly affected. Our experienced Leesburg child custody attorneys can help.
The Guidelines are not Mandatory but Usually Apply
While child support guidelines are applied in the vast majority of cases, they are not mandatory. A judge can deviate from the guidelines and set child support at a number he/she thinks is fair if they consider the following factors:
- Actual monetary support for other family members or former family members;
- Arrangements regarding custody of the children, including the cost of visitation travel;
- Imputed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily under-employed; provided that income may not be imputed to a custodial parent when a child is not in school, child care services are not available and the cost of such child care services are not included in the computation and provided further, that any consideration of imputed income based on a change in a party’s employment shall be evaluated with consideration of the good faith and reasonableness of employment decisions made by the party, including to attend and complete an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party’s earning potential;
- 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;
- Debts of either party arising during the marriage for the benefit of the child;
- Direct payments ordered by the court for maintaining life insurance coverage pursuant to subsection D, education expenses, or other court-ordered direct payments for the benefit of the child;
- Extraordinary capital gains such as capital gains resulting from the sale of the marital abode;
- Any special needs of a child resulting from any physical, emotional, or medical condition;
- Independent financial resources of the child or children;
- Standard of living for the child or children established during the marriage;
- Earning capacity, obligations, financial resources, and special needs of each parent;
- Provisions made with regard to the marital property under § 20-107.3, where said property earns income or has an income-earning potential;
- Tax consequences to the parties including claims for exemptions, child tax credit, and child care credit for dependent children;
- A written agreement, stipulation, consent order, or decree between the parties which includes the amount of child support; and
- Such other factors as are necessary to consider the equities for the parents and children.
In order to deviate from the guidelines, the Judge has to not only consider the above factors, they have to tell the parents what they considered and why they are deviating from the guidelines while also providing the actual guideline calculation. Guideline deviations are rare, but they do happen.
Additional Things to Consider
- Child support is always modifiable by a court upon a material change in financial circumstances. Generally this can include significant changes in income, increases in health care and/or child care costs, changes in the custody arrangement, the birth of other children (provided you have another material changes at the same time), the emancipation of children and changes in spousal support payments.
- A court order directing the payment of child support is enforceable by holding a parent in violation in contempt of court. A parent found in contempt can be ordered to pay support, attorneys’ fees and even go to jail in some cases.
- The Virginia Supreme Court provides a standard worksheet to calculate child support. However, you should always consult with an attorney about child support as most will have standard computer software to accurately calculate the guidelines and review with you all your options.
Contact our Leesburg child support attorneys at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.