Child Support in Virginia: What to expect, and how much you’ll get

Posted on Feb 24, 2014 by Katie Carter

If you and your soon-to-be ex have children in common, custody, support, and visitation are the issues that have probably taken center stage. It’s unnerving to think that the changes you’re making are going to affect your children in such a profound way, so you try to think of all the ways you can possibly minimize the impact on them. The truth is, though, that some things are out of your hands. And, if you’ve never been through this before, some things will happen that surprise and upset you. The biggest key to dealing with a divorce when you and your husband share children in common is to be prepared and plan ahead. When you know what to expect and can prepare yourself ahead of time, you minimize the time that you spend upset, anxious, and angry—all of which affects your children.

This week, I’m going to talk about what to expect when you face a divorce with children. Today, we’re going to talk about child support. Wednesday, we’ll talk about custody and visitation arrangements. Then, on Friday, we’ll talk about modifying custody and visitation arrangements.

How is child support calculated?

Child support in Virginia is based on a formula, which includes your income, your husband’s income, any child support that your husband may be paying to support a child from another relationship, healthcare expenses for the children (note that this does not include the cost of your or your husband’s insurance, just what relates to the children), and work-related child care (not child care you might need because you’re in school or doing something else).

The child support calculation also includes how much time the child will spend with each parent. In a primary physical custody situation, the non-custodial parent has the child for less than 90 overnights per year. In a shared physical custody situation, the non-custodial parent has more than 90 overnights per year. Shared custody arrangements reduce the amount of child support paid.

Can I calculate child support for myself?

Yes, as long as you have a primary physical custody scenario. (Shared physical custody is a lot more complicated and is difficult to figure out with pencil and paper.) It’s in the statute. You’ll need this pdf, so just click here. That’s your worksheet. On the second page is a list of instructions. It looks complicated, but it’s really pretty easy—just follow the directions. For line 7(a), you’ll need this: Virginia Coode Section 20-108.2. That will help show you your combined monthly support obligation. You’ll just add up your income and your husband’s income, and then move your finger to the left until you reach the number of children you have. So, for example, if your combined monthly income is $5,000 and you have two children, $1051 is the monthly child support obligation that will then be shared between the two of you, according to your incomes. So, if you’re responsible for 40% of what is brought in and your husband is responsible for 60%, but then there are reductions based on who pays for health care and who pays for child care. They’re not dollar for dollar deductions, but they’ll change things a little.

If nothing else, this should give you an idea of what to expect.

Is it possible that I could get less? Can I ask for more?

It is possible that the judge could order a deviation from the guidelines. It doesn’t happen that often, and usually there’s a pretty compelling reason for it. If you’re planning to ask for an upward deviation, you should consult with an attorney ahead of time. If you’re afraid your husband will ask that you receive less support (and you also feel like he has a compelling reason to ask for it), you may want to talk to an attorney about his likelihood of success.

In general, though, the numbers are pretty cut and dry, and there’s not a whole lot that either side can do to manipulate the numbers.

Do I need an attorney for my child support hearing?

Child support can be determined in a number of ways. A lot of times, child support is just determined along with the divorce, so by that point you’ve already hired an attorney to represent you. In this type of scenario, the child support would be negotiated between your attorney and your husband’s attorney, and then the figure would show up in your separation agreement, or your attorney and your husband’s attorney would put on evidence in front of a judge, and a judge would determine the amount of child support.

Other times, though, especially in the case of a long, drawn-out divorce, couples have to file a petition for child support (and also sometimes custody and visitation) in the juvenile court while their divorce is pending. These hearings are in front of a judge in the juvenile court, rather than the circuit court (where the divorce will ultimately be litigated).

For a child support hearing at the juvenile court level, it’s probably not necessary to hire an attorney. Anything that happens in the juvenile court is automatically appealable to the circuit court, so even if something bad happens, it’s not final. Child support is normally pretty simple anyway, so it’s unlikely that something could go that drastically wrong. If your hearing is also set to determine custody and visitation, though, you may want to hire an attorney. Still, remember that whatever happens is appealable anyway.

Will I get any other kind of support?

Spousal support is a different analysis entirely, and not everyone gets it. Check out my blog on spousal support by clicking here.
The child support figure is pretty much all you’ll get just because you have children in common. It’s not an overly generous figure, either. You probably won’t get more for extracurriculars or any other activities that your child may be involved in, either. The number is intended to be comprehensive. Remember, though, that you can ask for an upward deviation.

If your child is enrolled in private school, your child’s father may also be ordered to pay a portion of the school-related expenses on top of child support. To learn more about what you may receive in your unique situation, you should talk to an experienced Virginia custody attorney. Call us at (757) 425-5200.