The following is a basic overview of child support guidelines calculations in Virginia. A number of exceptions and special rules are not discussed herein. The information provided is not legal advice or a substitute for the advice of an attorney familiar with child support laws and practices in your local area.
Virginia child support guidelines are governed by statute. (See Virginia Code § 20-108.1). The court is required to consider all relevant evidence presented for each individual case when the child support amount is determined. However, there is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support calculated using the guidelines set out in Virginia Code § 20-108.2 is the correct amount (“presumptive monthly child support amount").
CALCULATING THE PRESUMPTIVE CHILD SUPPORT AMOUNT: DETERMINING THE TOTAL MONTHLY CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATION:
The “total monthly child support obligation" (presumptive monthly child support amount) is determined using the “Schedule of Monthly Child Support Guidelines" provided by Va. Code § 20-108.2. The parties’ combined monthly gross income and the number of children for whom support is sought are applied to the schedule to determine the “total monthly child support obligation". Special calculation rules apply for combined monthly gross incomes in excess of $10,000.00, which are not discussed in this article.
CALCULATING THE PRESUMPTIVE CHILD SUPPORT AMOUNT: SOLE CUSTODY SUPPORT:
The sole custody total monthly child support obligation is basically computed as follows:
- Parent’s Total Monthly Support Obligation = (“total monthly child support obligation" + (allowable costs for health care coverage and work-related child-care costs)) x (Parent’s percentage of the parents’ gross monthly income)
Payment is made to the custodial parent by the non-custodial parent. The monthly obligation of the noncustodial parent is reduced by the cost for health care coverage when paid directly by the noncustodial parent or that parent's spouse.
CALCULATING THE PRESUMPTIVE CHILD SUPPORT AMOUNT: SHARED CUSTODY SUPPORT:
Shared custody support calculations are used when a party has custody or visitation of a child or children for more than 90 days of the year. (A "day" means a period of 24 hours; where the parent with fewer overnights during the year has an overnight period lasting less than 24 hours, each parent is allocated one-half of a day of custody for that period. See Virginia Code 108.2(G)(3)(c)).
Calculation of the shared custody amount requires the use of each party’s "income share" and “custody share" as well as the “shared support need".
"Income share" means a parent's percentage of the combined monthly gross income of both parents.
- “Mother’s income share" = [Mother’s Gross Monthly Income] / [Monthly Gross Income of the Parties]).
- “Father’s income share" = [Father’s Gross Monthly Income] / [Monthly Gross Income of the Parties]).
"Custody share" means the number of days that a parent has (or is anticipated to have) physical custody (the child is with them) per year divided by the number of days in the year.
- “Mother’s custody share" = [Number of days child is with Mother] / 365
- “Father’s custody share" = [Number of days child is with Father] / 365
"Shared support need" means the presumptive guideline amount of needed support for the shared child or children calculated using the schedule for the combined gross income of the parties and the number of shared children, multiplied by 1.4.
The shared custody guideline child support amount is determined as follows:
- Total monthly support obligation from schedule x 1.4 = “Shared support need"
- “Support to be paid by Mother"= ((“Shared support need" x “Father’s custody share") + (health care and child care paid by Mother)) x “Mother’s income share"
- “Support to be paid by Father"((“Shared support need" x “Mother’s custody share") + (health care and child care paid by Father)) x “Father’s income share"
- If “Support to be paid by Mother" is less than “Support to be paid by Father" then Father will be ordered to pay an amount equal to “Support to be paid by Mother" minus “Support to be paid by Father".
- If “Support to be paid by Father" is less than “Support to be paid by Mother" then Mother will be ordered to pay an amount equal to “Support to be paid by Father" minus “Support to be paid by Mother"
Litigating Child Support Determinations: Rebutting the Presumption:
It is common for parties to attempt to rebut the appropriateness of the presumptive support amount. The presumptive amount of child support may be rebutted if the court finds that it would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. The following types of evidence relevant to the ability of each party to provide child support and the best interests of the child may be considered by a court when asked to deviate from the presumptive amount of child support:
- 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 the 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;
- 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.
Litigating Child Support Determinations: Establishing the Parties’ Monthly Gross Incomes:
Another commonly litigated factor in child support determinations is the parties’ monthly gross income, which may significantly affect the presumptive support obligation. In most cases the gross incomes are fairly easy to determine from W-2s and paystubs. Common issues include overtime pay, overtime hours, and commission payment expectations. “Gross income" is specifically defined by the statute as:
“all income from all sources, and shall include, but not be limited to, income from salaries, wages, commissions, 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, spousal support, rental income, gifts, prizes or awards.
- Reasonable business expenses may be deducted from “Gross income" for persons with income from self-employment, a partnership, or a closely held business.
"Gross income"does not include:
- Benefits from public assistance and social services programs as defined in § 63.2-100;
- Federal supplemental security income benefits;
- Child support received; or
- Income received by the payor from secondary employment income not previously included in "gross income," where the payor obtained the income to discharge a child support arrearage established by a court or administrative order and the payor is paying the arrearage pursuant to the order.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES AND LITIGATION:
- Once entered, a child support order is enforceable through the court's contempt powers. The order usually remains in effect until modified.
- In order to modify a child support order, the party seeking modification must show that there has been a change in circumstances. Generally, Virginia courts have held that a significant change in either party's income is sufficient to justify child support modification. A change > 10% is a good rule of thumb when gauging significance. However, if a party is seeking to reduce the amount he or she is ordered to pay because he or she has experienced a reduction in his/her income then it must be shown to the satisfaction of the court that the income reduction was not voluntary.