Whether they are children of intact, separating, divorcing, or unmarried families, children require the financial support of their parents. In fact, parents are obligated to provide support for their children. That is simple enough, but when parents are separating, divorcing, or unmarried, determining how much support must be paid, to whom the support is to be paid, the expenses to which the support is applied, and what to do if support is not paid, becomes very difficult. If you have questions about how child support works, you are not alone:
- What amount? In Virginia, we use child support guidelines, and there is a presumption in the law that the amount of support as established by the guidelines is the correct amount. However, the correct information must be plugged into the guidelines, including the accurate (i) gross monthly incomes; (ii) monthly cost of providing medical, dental, and vision insurance for the child; (iii) monthly cost of work-related child care; and (v) whether a parent is obligated to support another child; and also, (vi) the amount of time the child is in the care of each parent. Suddenly, using a formula to determine child support is not so easy.
- What does support cover? Even those who cannot agree on anything else agree that children are expensive. Should support cover more than basic food, shelter and clothing? If a parent pays an amount of support calculated by the child support guidelines, is that parent obligated to contribute more? What about the cost of uninsured medical expenses? What about education expenses? The list can be endless. Unless parties reach a specific agreement or the Court makes a specific ruling about how child support will be applied to expenses, the parent receiving the support on behalf of the child determines how to spend the funds.
- What if things change? The law provides some guidance about if, how and when child support may be changed, and when it can be terminated.
Parents have some ability to enter into Agreements dictating the terms of child support. However, children have a right to be supported.
When parents commit to acting in a manner that promotes the child's best interests, they have taken the first step in turning a very confusing issue into something more manageable.