Although many families are able to reach an agreement about custody when parties separate after having children together, legally, there are a variety of factors that determine which party has legal custody of the children and how much monetary support is needed to meet the children’s needs.

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In Virginia, each parent has a duty to provide for his or her children. When parties separate after having children together, they must determine how they will continue to meet the children’s needs now that they are no longer together. Child support is typically a monthly amount paid by one parent to the other to help defray the children’s expenses. Virginia has adopted a set of guidelines that the Court usually uses to determine child support. These guidelines consider each party’s income, the cost of reasonable work-related childcare, the cost of health insurance for the parties minor children, the number of custodial days allocated to each parent, and whether either party has a duty to support any other minor children. There are also circumstances where it may be appropriate to deviate from the guideline child support amount because of special circumstances in a family. Those circumstances could include but are not limited to a parent who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, a child that has special needs that require additional financial resources, or a child that has independent financial resources that are available for support. Child support normally is paid until a child turns 18, unless he or she has not graduated from high school. Then, the child support will terminate when the child graduates from high school or turns nineteen (19), whichever occurs first. The court also may order child support to continue if a child is disabled. Once child support is established, whether by agreement or by a court, either party can request that the child support be changed if there is a material change in circumstance that warrants a modification.

Once a child support order is entered, it is important that the parties abide by its terms and pay the amounts due on time. If the parents agree to change the terms of a child support order, any changes should be in writing and signed by both parties. Unpaid child support automatically accrues interest that can quickly add up when past-due child support is significant. If a party is not complying with a child support order, there are several options available to enforce the order. A parent can request that the court enter an Income Deduction Order requiring the employer to withhold support from the employees pay. The payor could have his driver’s license suspended or his tax refund withheld until he or she complies with the order. A parent can also file a Rule to Show Cause requesting that the payor be held in contempt, incarcerated, or fined until the other parent complies with the child support order.

If you have questions about establishing child support, enforcing a child support order, or how to change a current child support order, contact the family law attorneys at Kelly & Crandall.