Guidelines for child support are set by statute.
In Virginia, child support is calculated using specific guidelines based on the “Income Shares Model”. This model uses each parent’s proportion of the total family income to determine the amount of child support each parent is required to pay. The total amount of child support is determined by comparing the parents’ total gross income to a child support guidelines table, which can be found here.
Here is a link to one of the court’s online child support worksheets for sole physical custody. A shared custody guideline worksheet may be found here.
The worksheets do not indicate the complexities underlying the calculations or the deviation factors that may apply to a particular case. Although the guidelines establish the presumptive amount of child support, a court has discretion to deviate from the guideline amount if the presumption is rebutted.
If you’re having trouble working with the forms, believe you have a basis for deviation upward or downward from the guidelines, or have specific questions, you should contact a family law attorney who has experience working with these guidelines.
Please scroll down to read more about:
- Using Guidelines to Calculate Virginia Child Support
- Determining “Gross Income” when calculating Virginia child support
- Using “Gross Income” to Determine the Virginia Child Support Guideline Amount
- Adjustment to the presumptive child support amount for health insurance and child care costs to calculate the final “presumptive” child support amount.
- Deviation – Rebutting the Presumptive Virginia Child Support Amount
- Imputation of Income as a basis for deviation from the Virginia child support guidelines
- Modifying a prior Virginia child support order
- The value of a consultation with a family law attorney when dealing with Virginia child support matters.
Calculating child support guidelines.
If you’re trying to estimate child support, you can use the worksheets and calculators provided by the courts as posted above to get an estimate of the amount of support that may be ordered in your case.
The first step is to determine the physical custody type, whether it is sole custody or shared custody. This will let you determine which worksheet to use. Generally, the custody type is shared if both parties have custody or visitation for more than 90 days of the year. A “day” means a period of 24 hours; however, there are provisions under the code that also allow for the allocation of one-half day periods. Calculation of half-day periods usually requires the assistance of a family law attorney.
Although the worksheets and calculators will give a support amount for both parents, only the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. This is because courts assume that the custodial parent’s support amount is going directly to costs of supporting children.
After determining custody type and the correct worksheet to use, the next step is to calculate the parties’ gross income.
Determine “gross income” before calculating child support
The second step when calculating child support guidelines is a determination of the parties’ gross income. “Gross income” is defined as “all income from all sources”. It includes income from:
- severance pay
- trust income
- capital gains
- social security benefits (with some exceptions)
- workers’ compensation benefits
- unemployment insurance benefits
- disability insurance benefits
- veterans’ benefits
- spousal support
- rental income
- gifts, prizes or awards.
Gross income is subject to deduction of reasonable business expenses 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 Virginia Code § 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. “Secondary employment income” includes but is not limited to income from an additional job, from self-employment, or from overtime employment. The cessation of such secondary income upon the payment of the arrearage shall not be the basis for a material change in circumstances upon which a modification of child support may be based.
Using “gross income” to calculate child support.
To find the basic child support obligation, add the parents’ adjusted gross incomes together and match the total with the column containing the applicable number of children in the Basic Child-Support Obligation Schedule. Using this link you can scroll down and find the current schedule of guidelines used in Virginia.
To find each parent’s percentage share of this basic amount, divide each parent’s income by the combined income.
For example, if the parents’ combined adjusted gross income is $10,000, with the noncustodial parent earning $7,000 and the custodial parent earning $3,000, the noncustodial parent would be responsible for 70% of support and the custodial parent for 30%. The basic child support amount in the schedule for one child when the parents’ combined monthly income is $10,000 is $1,054, so in this example the noncustodial parent would pay the custodial parent 70% of $1,054 or $737.80.
Health insurance and child care costs adjustments to child support.
The child support guideline amount calculated as above is finally adjusted for the costs of the children’s health insurance and work-related healthcare. These expenses are normally pro-rated between the parents using the income proportions calculated in the first step. Using the figures in the previous example, if the noncustodial parent pays $150 for health insurance and the custodial parent pays $350 for child care, 70% of the $500 total amount, or $350, would be the noncustodial parent’s responsibility and 30% of the $500 total, or $150, would be the custodial parent’s responsibility. The amount of $350 would be added to the noncustodial parent’s $737.80 support payment to get a new payment of $1,087.80. The noncustodial parent can subtract the $150 paid for health insurance, and the final support amount—called the “presumptive child support amount” in the guidelines—will be $1,081.30. The noncustodial parent will pay this amount to the custodial parent.
Deviating from the child support guidelines: Rebutting the presumption.
If the presumptive support amount doesn’t accurately reflect the parents’ ability to pay or the best interests of the children, the court can deviate from the amount if it finds that the presumptive amount has been rebutted.
In order to rebut the presumption, the court is required to make written findings in the order that the presumptive amount is unjust or inappropriate. The written findings must state the amount of support that would have been required under the guidelines, give a justification of why the order varies from the guidelines, and be determined by relevant evidence pertaining to the following factors affecting the obligation, the ability of each party to provide child support, and the best interests of the child:
- 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 a 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, including to attend and complete an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party’s earning potential;
- Any child care costs incurred on behalf of the child or children due to the attendance of a custodial parent in an educational or vocational program likely to maintain or increase the party’s earning potential;
- 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.
Persuading a court to deviate from the guidelines is rarely an easy task. If you think the facts and circumstances in your case justify a deviation from the guidelines you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
Deviating from the child support guidelines: Imputing income.
Unfortunately, there are parents who will seek to reduce their income voluntarily in order to reduce their child support obligation. If a court finds that a parent has voluntarily reduced his or her income or had a reduction in income due to bad behavior, such as getting fired for cause, then the court may order support based on the income that parent could earn or was earning prior to the reduction. This is referred to as imputing income to a party. However, if a parent is temporarily underemployed or unemployed for a reason that will eventually benefit the children—for example to obtain training for a higher-paying position—the court will take this reason into account.
Modification of child support orders.
Revision and modification of a Virginia child support decree is generally addressed by Virginia Code § 20-108. What this code section basically states is that a court may modify a child support decree on its own initiative or when a petition is filed for modification be either party, as the circumstances of the parents and the benefit of the children may require.
No support order may be retroactively modified, but may be modified with respect to any period during which there is a pending petition for modification in any court, but only from the date that notice of such petition has been given to the responding party.
A parent that wants to modify (change) an existing support order must show some change in long-term conditions that materially affects either a parent’s income or a child’s needs. Frequently, the change in circumstance is a change in a party’s income.
Virginia child support generally ends when the child turns 18 unless the child is still attending high school full-time, in which case it continues until the child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever happens first. The obligation may continue longer if a child is disabled and not capable of self-support.
The value of a consultation with a family law attorney when dealing with Virginia child support matters.
This page provides only a very brief summary of all the considerations and factors involved in a child support case. There is a huge body of case law wherein the courts have interpreted the various statutes and considered other factors applicable to a child support determination. If you are facing an initial child support determination, a petition for modification of child support, or seeking to enforce a child support order then it is a good idea to obtain a consultation with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process and explain how all of the factors and case law may apply to your particular facts and circumstances.
Brian R. Moore is an experienced family law attorney who has dealt with and handled countless child support matters for a broad spectrum of clients. If you would like to set up a consultation please call The Moore Law Firm PLLC.
Weekends and after hours appointments available on a limited basis.