Sisterhood

Most Common Child Support Situations

With  divorce and custody cases, child support payments are one of the largest continuing expenses parents deal with. Part of your responsibility as a parent is to provide for your children financially.

Child support is paid by the parent who doesn’t have primary custody (non-custodial parent) to the parent (custodial parent) that does. The custodial parent isn’t supposed to use child support payments for their personal needs.  Child support payments are meant to cover the cost of

  • food

  • housing

  • clothes

  • health care

  • and other kid’s needs.

Child support isn’t always awarded to a parent. The amount will depend on how much money each parent makes, the number of children they share, health care premiums paid, and day care costs.

Any extraordinary costs of the child can also be considered in calculating monthly child support.

Let’s talk about some of the most common child support arrangements in Fredericksburg and the reasons behind each one.

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When One Parent Has Primary Physical Custody

If one parent is given sole legal or physical custody, the court may decide that the non-custodial parent should be obligated (a child support payer is also called an “obligor”) to help with their child’s basic living expenses by making child support payments to the custodial parent.

A court will figure out a child support amount based on the Virginia  Child Support guidelines. Unlike custody, deciding on an amount to pay for child support is fairly straightforward using these guidelines. The child support amount may deviate or not follow the child support guidelines in certain circumstances and with court approval.

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What If I’m Unmarried?

If you’re in a  situation where you have a child together but you’ve never married, and then separate, most of the time your child lives  with the other parent when the romantic relationship ends. In this case, both parents must financially support their child.  And the non-custodial parent may be required to pay regular child support payments to the custodial parent.

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When Parents Are Separated, but Not Divorced

A period of separation often precedes a divorce for many couples, leaving the non-earning spouses to wonder if they are able to obtain child support payments before the divorce is finalized. Again, in this scenario, a custodial parent may be able to file a petition for child support to provide for the children. Once the divorce is finished, the child support agreement may be modified depending on the specifics of custody and visitation rights of both parents.

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Mom and a Child
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How Is Child Support Calculated?

In Virginia, child support is usually figured on a consistent, uniform formula - the Virginia child support guidelines which we discussed earlier. Virginia’s child support formula looks is a math equation. You plug in numbers and it gives you the presumptive (amount the law says is the right amount you should pay) amount. But, just like having a professional look at your taxes, there may be items and custody situations an experienced attorney sees that will benefit you and reduce your child support.

Sometimes, the courts don’t use the formula (also called a child support guideline deviation) based on certain individual circumstances. Courts can factor in unique financial hardships, extraordinary child-related expenses, and travel costs.

You should know that when a Virginia court determines child support, the courts look at you and the custodial parent’s gross income (your monthly pay before taxes and payroll deductions). As unfair as it is, the court doesn’t look to your take-home pay to figure out child support.

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Child Support and Shared Custody

With Virginia shared custody, in situations where parents split custody 50/50, the parent that earns more money generally pays child support to the lower earning parent. This is because courts want to make sure the children's standard of living is the same in both parent’s households. In these cases child support is calculated under a shared custody formula. In real life this means if you’re a dad with 50/50 custody, if your ex-partner earns more than you, they could be paying you child support instead of the other way around.

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When a Stepparent Adopts Stepchildren

When blending with a family with children, some stepparents may choose to adopt the children (this can happen only if the other parent is willing to terminate parental rights). When a stepparent adoption takes place, any previous child support agreements between the biological parents end. But if you’re the non-custodial parent, you’ll still be liable to pay for any back child support (also called child support arrears).  Keep in mind that adoption also legally ends the biological parent's rights to see the children.

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Do You Need Help Coming Up With or Modifying a Child Support Agreement?

Being able to agree on a child support amount depends on your particular family situation. There’s no one size fits all approach to child support. If you have questions about child support agreements in Virginia, or if you need help filing a child support petition or changing an current child support order, contact us today at the Bramble Law Firm and speak with Attorney Tori Bramble. We’re  prepared to help you in any way possible.

You can reach us at at (540) 628-7340 or you can fill out our contact form on the right to set up a consultation with a family law attorney.