Virginia Child Support Guidelines
In Virginia, child support, like all other family law issues, is strictly governed by statute. The amount of child support is initially determined by the child support guidelines. Guideline child support is essentially a formula in which a number of variables are input to obtain the guideline amount. The primary variables for determining the guideline child support amount are the number of children involved, the parents' respective gross monthly incomes, the number of days per year each parent has the child, healthcare premium costs incurred by a parent on behalf of the child, and any work-related childcare costs incurred by a parent.
Which Guidelines Apply?
There are different sets of child support guidelines that apply in different circumstances. The two most common guidelines are the "sole custody" and the "shared custody" guidelines. These guidelines apply when each parent has all of the children together at the same time during the custodial period. The primary difference between the sole custody guidelines and shared custody guidelines is the number of days per year each parent has the children. If one of the parents has the children for 90 days or less per year, then the "sole custody guidelines" apply. The shared custody guidelines apply when both parents have the children for 91 days or more per year. There are also guidelines for split custody and shared-split custody arrangements.
Deviation from the Child Support Guidelines
The child support guidelines are presumed to yield the correct amount of monthly child support. In some circumstances, however, the court has the authority to deviate up or down from the guidelines if the court determines the guideline amount is inappropriate or unjust. In determining whether to deviate from the guidelines, the court must consider certain statutory factors. Included in the factors are whether one of the parents is voluntarily underemployed and whether the parents have entered into a written agreement that contains a child support amount that is different from the guideline amount.
Parents May Agree on Child Support
Like all family law matters, the parents in a child support case may agree in writing to the child support amount. Because children are involved, however, the court has the authority to ignore the parents' agreement and order a child support amount that it determines to be in the child's best interests.
Although a calculation of the guideline child support amount may seem straightforward (and sometimes it is), a determination of each of the variables (gross income, day-count, insurance costs, etc.) can be nuanced and lead to complexities--and an incorrect calculation of the child support amount. Additionally, one of the parents may have adequate grounds to seek a deviation from the guidelines. Call us today to schedule a consultation regarding your child support matter.