Child support issues arise both in the context of divorce cases and when unmarried parents separate. Regardless of marital status, each parent of a child has a duty to support that child, and the rules regarding child support apply equally to both married and unmarried parents.
Virginia, like all other states, has adopted its own version of federally mandated child support guidelines. The guidelines are essentially a mathematical formula used to calculate a dollar amount of support based upon the following financial and custodial circumstances: the amount of time the child or children spend with each parent, the income of each parent, spousal support (if any) paid by one parent to the other, the number of other children for which either parent owes a duty of support, the number of the children to be supported, child care costs, and health insurance costs. The amount determined by the formula enjoys special consideration, as it is deemed the presumptively correct amount of child support owed. Despite that heightened degree of consideration, courts can rely upon certain circumstances, if proven, to deviate from that presumptively correct amount and set either a higher or lower amount of child support.
Prior to or in lieu of litigation of any child support case, or any divorce case in which child support is at issue, parents are free to voluntarily agree upon child support amounts and terms of payment outside of the court system. However, like many other agreements regarding family law matters, several good reasons exist, particularly related to enforcement, for memorializing a child support agreement by court order. Once a court order is entered regarding child support, the parties are no longer free to voluntarily agree to alter the amount or payment terms without obtaining the approval of the appropriate court. Furthermore, if a party is found to have violated a child support order, penalties ranging from interest on unpaid sums to jail time can be imposed. Hiring competent counsel to assist you in child support matters, even those matters upon which parties seem to be in agreement, is usually a wise decision.
Steve Raynor has extensive experience both in negotiating appropriate child support agreements outside of court, and in litigating child support disputes in court. If you have a child support issue, please contact us to answer your questions, to confirm your calculations, or to represent you if there is a dispute regarding the amount of child support.