HOW DOES CHILD SUPPORT WORK IN VIRGINIA?
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HOW DOES CHILD SUPPORT WORK IN VIRGINIA?

Few words strike as much dread in the hearts of men than these two: child support. But you do not need to fear, The Hopkins Law Firm is here!

Here are the answers to the child support questions we are most frequently asked by potential clients:

What does Virginia Law say about child support?
According to Virginia Code § 20-124.2. , child support is payable under the following circumstances:

“C. … The court shall also order that support will continue to be paid for any child over the age of 18 who is (i) a full-time high school student, (ii) not self-supporting, and (iii) living in the home of the party seeking or receiving child support until such child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever first occurs. The court may also order that support be paid or continue to be paid for any child over the age of 18 who is (a) severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled, and such disability existed prior to the child reaching the age of 18 or the age of 19 if the child met the requirements of clauses (i), (ii), and (iii); (b) unable to live independently and support himself; and (c) residing in the home of the parent seeking or receiving child support. In addition, the court may confirm a stipulation or agreement of the parties which extends a support obligation beyond when it would otherwise terminate as provided by law. The court shall have no authority to decree support of children payable by the estate of a deceased party. The court may make such further decree as it shall deem expedient concerning support of the minor children, including an order that either party or both parties provide health care coverage or cash medical support, or both.”

Which parent pays child support?
The non-custodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent of the parties’ child. Even if the non-custodial parent earns less money than the custodial parent, often times an amount of child support is likely to be Ordered.

If the child has a shared custody schedule which results in them spending an approximately equal amount of time with both parents, support will be based upon each parties incomes, but often times no support may be exchanged.

How long does the payor pay child support payments?
In most circumstances, the parent who has the obligation to pay child support must remit payments until said child has graduated high school or attains the age of nineteen. If you have unique circumstances, child support may be payable past this time. Please contact The Hopkins Law Firm to discuss your circumstances and receive sound legal advice.

How is the amount of child support calculated?
Child support is calculated based upon how much time the child or children spends with each parent and the parties’ respective incomes. Factors that impact the amount of the child support payments are health insurance premiums, childcare costs and support payments due for other children. Michelle Hopkins and her team at The Hopkins Law Firm can run an estimated child support calculation during consultations with potential clients to offer insight on what a child support obligation could potentially be.

Can the amount of child support change?
Yes, the amount of child support payable may change based upon a material change in circumstances. This is considered a modification of child support. Michelle Hopkins and her team at The Hopkins Law Firm are ready to help you determine if your current circumstances warrant a modification of child support.

Can my child’s parent significantly reduce their income to avoid paying child support?
No, they cannot intentionally take a lower paying job to avoid child support. This is referred to as voluntary under employment and Judges do not look kindly on this tactic.

If the reduction of income was caused by poor conduct or unethical behavior, such as being under the influence of drugs at work, this behavior will have serious repercussions.

If the reduction in their income occurred through no fault of their own, such as being laid off or the company they work for closing, this may be considered a material change in circumstances and the payor may have the ability to modify child support.

When is child support not payable?
Child support may not be payable under certain circumstances, such as:

  • Agreement to Waive. Parties may agree to waive child support payments (thought this does not prevent the Court from Ordering an amount payable to support a child).
  • Shared Custody. If the child’s custodial schedule is shared, which means both parents have the child for equal amounts of time, then child support would be not be payable as the financial obligations would be equally balanced between the parties.
  • Emancipation. If a child legally emancipates before they have graduated high school or reached age eighteen, or after they graduate from high school or reach age nineteen, child support is no longer payable.

If you are unsure if child support is payable in your legal matter, Michelle Hopkins and her team at The Hopkins Law Firm are ready to help you better understand your circumstances.

May child support be paid past a child’s emancipation?
Yes, child support may be paid past a child’s emancipation. If a child is severely disabled and unable to support themselves as an adult, child support may be payable for the life of the parents. This applies if a child was born with special needs or as a result of a medical event later in their life.

Does child support apply past emancipation, such as for college expenses?
If a child is not severely disabled, child support ceases upon their legal emancipation or their aging to emancipation. Should either parent wish to provide financial assistance to their child past their emancipation they are free to do so. However, this is completely voluntary and they are not legally obligated to provide such support.

What do I do if my child’s parent refuses or fails to pay child support?
In the event that your child’s parent fails or refuses to pay child support, you should consult with a lawyer to see what your options are. If the failure to pay child support was not malicious but due to circumstances beyond the other parent’s control, consulting with a lawyer is imperative to ensure that the parent’s future earning potential is not negatively impacted.

You also have the option to open a case with the Department of Child Support Enforcement of Virginia.

What is the role of the Department of Child Support Enforcement?
The Department of Child Support Enforcement of Virginia ensures that child support is paid. They accomplish this by tracking down the employment and bank information of parents who have a support obligation and coordinating the deduction of child support from income received by the payor with their employer. In the event that the payor does not comply with remitting child support payments, they may lose their driver’s license, be subject to jail time, and be Court ordered to pay arrears.

Can someone “wait out” a child support obligation by refusing to pay until a child emancipates?
No, an obligation of child support never goes away or expires! If your child’s parent refuses to pay child support, the Department of Child Support Enforcement of Virginia can enforce this obligation, resulting in a payment to the recipient of support even years after a child emancipates.

What are arrears?
Arrears are payments Ordered by the Court towards fulfilling back pay of child support.

For example, let’s say that you were unable to pay child support for two years and accumulated $20,000.00 in unpaid child support. The Court would review your current income and the current income of your child’s parent. A new child support amount would be calculated based on your incomes, and a payment to fulfill the unpaid child support would be attached to that new support obligation. So if your new child support payment was $1,500 per month and your arrears payment was $200 per month, you would owe your child’s parent $1,700 per month until the $200 per month paid off the $20,000.00 in arrears. After the $20,000.00 in arrears is satisfied, your child support obligation would be $1,500.00 per month until your child emancipates or the Court orders a subsequent modification of support.

Is the Court always involved in child support or can parties agree to child support privately?
Parents can agree privately to child support payments without the Court’s involvement. However, when private agreements are made, there is no protection for the party who would be receiving payments. Should the parent with the support obligation decide that they no longer want to pay the originally agreed upon amount, they could change the amount of their support payments, or cease payments all together, with no warning and no repercussions. Before entering into a private child support agreement, consult with Michelle Hopkins and her legal team to ensure your interests are protected.

What role does Michelle Hopkins and her team play in the determination of child support?
Michelle Hopkins and her team assists clients in the matter of child support by calculating child support payments and assisting clients as they navigate the process of formalizing child support payments. Michelle Hopkins is a strong advocate for all of her clients, and she fights to ensure that a legally sound amount of child support is Ordered in every case.

Summary
Michelle Hopkins and her team have vast experience with initial determinations and subsequent modifications of child support. Please call 571-248-2210 to make an appointment to discuss your legal needs today.

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