Monday, February 23, 2015

How is child support calculated?

Many of my clients need to know and understand how child support works.  The formula can be somewhat complicated, but child support is typically based off of a formula.  This formula is called the child support guidelines.  In Virginia, the result of the child support guidelines is the starting point for how much child support one parent should pay the other.  From there, the court may increase or decrease that amount depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

So how does this formula work?  First, you have to have a custody and visitation arrangement in place.  The court looks at that arrangement to determine what percentage of the time a child is with each parent.  At the same time, the court looks to the incomes of each parent and combines them.  The court also takes into account day care expenses, medical expenses and health insurance for the children.

Overall, the court uses the combined incomes to determine the total "cost" of raising the child.  From there, the court looks at who's expending additional money for things such as day care and health insurance for the child.  The court then takes the total "cost" of raising the child and pro-rates that amount to each parent based on the amount of time the child is in his/her care and custody.  The difference in those amounts is what one parent will be paying the other parent.

Many courts will not award child support unless there is a petition for child support.  That means, if dad petitions the court for child support, the court runs the child support guidelines and according to those guidelines, mom is actually the one owed support, the court may not award mom child support.  Mom would have to file her own petition for child support in order for that award to be made.

In most cases, child support is also back dated to the date of the filing.  So if you file for child support March 1, and the court does not hear the case and make an award until April 1, the person owing child support will owe approximately one month's worth of back child support for the time between the filing of the petition and the award of child support.

This is a basic formula that the courts use to get to a starting point for child support.  The court may increase or decrease this amount but using this formula will give you a general idea of what a court may award for child support.

If you are involved in a child support case or looking to petition for child support and would like an initial consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or