In Virginia, both parents are obligated to support their children, regardless of whether the parents are married or not.
Child support cases occur typically on following circumstances:
· After divorce
· Where the father has not married the mother of a child and is not providing support
· If paternity of the child can be established in the case of an unwed father
The amount of child support is based on the child support guidelines which can be found in the Virginia Code. But how long does child support have to paid in Virginia?
Generally, Virginia Law says that a child support obligation will continue until the child reaches the age of 18. However, the court will order that the support continue after the child reaches the age of 18 in the following cases:
· If the child is over 18, a full-time high school student, not self-supporting and living in the home of the parent (or other guardian) seeking support, the order can be extended until the child reaches 19 or graduates high school, whichever comes first; or
· When the child is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled, unable to live independently and support him/herself, and resides in the home of the parent seeking support.
The court may also extend a support obligation after the child reaches the age of 18 if both parents agree to it and request the extension.
Child Support Order (CSO)
Next, you will have to look at your child support order. To obtain child support in Virginia, you may either file directly in court or apply through the Commonwealth’s Department of Social Services Division of Child Support Enforcement (called DCSE for short). The DCSE will enforce your current child support order until the order says your child emancipates.
A child support order ensures that a custodial parent receives sufficient monetary support from the child’s noncustodial parent. The support given will provide for the child’s basic needs and necessities such as food, shelter, education, childcare, health care, clothing, etc.
A CSO may also be attained by parents who filed for an uncontested divorce and who were able to reach an agreement without a judge’s input. In this instance, the parents independently agree to split the expenses for child-rearing. However, to ensure the child’s best interest, the court may interfere to calculate the amount needed for the parent’s mutually agreed child support in accordance with the Guidelines.
What is Emancipation?
It is settled that until a child reaches the age of majority and under certain circumstances, the parents have the legal responsibility to support the child. There are however certain instances under which a child, parent or guardian of the child may seek “emancipation.”
Emancipation is when a child gain the freedom associated with adulthood. There are legal ramifications of emancipation but the most distinct is that the parents of the child may be released of some responsibilities as parents.
A minor child of 16 years old can petition a family court in Virginia to become emancipated. A petition for emancipation may be initiated by filing with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for the county of city in which the minor or his or her parent resides.
A Child Support Order Can Be changed to Collect Support After Your Child Turns 18
If you have an open DCSE case, if the custodial parent thinks the order needs to be modified to continue support past a child’s 18th birthday, it can be changed if the child will still be a full-time high school student, and you have a case with DCSE. The DCSE District Office managing your case will need to be contacted at least six months before your child's 18th birthday. If you do not have an open DCSE case, you'll have to contact the court where your order is or a private attorney to find out what your rights are to change or end your child support order.
If My Parental Rights are Terminated or My Child Is Adopted Does Child Support End?
Generally speaking, the only situation where the courts absolve a parent of their child support obligation is when another adult adopts the child.
Circumstances when this may happen is when a child is adopted by another family member, when the custodial parent remarries and is willing to adopt the child, or when the child is adopted from a foster home.
To make sure, you have to go to court to ask it to decide if it will end payment of current support and arrears.
Does Child Support Last Through College?
In general, child support doesn't continue through college unless the parents agree in writing otherwise. For example, some parents may extend child support to a child until the child attains 22 years of age if the child is pursuing a college education leading to an undergraduate degree and is considered as a full-time or a substantially full-time student on a college or university.
Do I have to continue to pay support if my adult child has special needs?
As discussed, a parent’s obligation to support the child ends once the child reaches 18 years old except on special circumstances.
In situations where a child over 19 has significant special needs, the juvenile or circuit courts may order the non-custodial parent to pay child support for a longer or indefinite period to help the custodial parents with the costs of the custodial parent that cares for and supports the adult child every day.
Further, for the court to decide if a child is considered disabled, it will consider all the child's limits together. Examples of physical limits are loss of hearing, muscle control, amputations, major physical injuries. Examples of mental limits are low IQ, learning problems, psychotic disorders, etc. Second, disability must be the reason the child is unable to work or live alone.
Furthermore, If the child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or gets Supplementary Security Income (SSI), that could be a sign the child may need continued support.
Parents owe their children a duty of support during the children’s minority. A mother and father’s first and foremost obligation is to support their child. Fundamentally, the purpose of child support laws is to ensure each parent is fulfilling this obligation. In Virginia, child support will continue until the child reaches the age of 18 and may extend until the child reaches 19 years old or graduates high school, whichever comes first.
There are notable circumstances when parents may discontinue child support or may even extend giving support on their children although they already reached the age of majority.
If you are a parent and is experiencing child support issues in Virginia, please consult with Virginia Attorney Tori Bramble to have a clearer understanding of the Virginia Child Support Laws.