So, who receives Virginia child support? In many ways, child support isn’t a very complicated proposition. Most cases fall somewhere within the realm of normal, and very predictable things happen. Of course, there are cases that are outliers, for one reason or another, and that make it difficult to make blanket statements about child support and which parent receives Virginia child support.
Generally speaking, the parent who has the child less (the non custodial parent) pays child support to the custodial parent (the parent who has the child more). That’s not always the case, though, and the way the numbers work out can vary dramatically depending on the circumstances.
First of all, let’s discuss the vocabulary of custody a little more. (For more in depth information on the vocabulary of custody cases, click here.)
In Virginia, depending on whether you have primary physical custody or shared physical custody of your child (or children, but for the purposes of this article I’m just going to generally use the word “child,” and calculate based off of one child in each of the examples I’ll give later on), you may receive (or pay) more or less support.
Primary Physical Custody
When you have primary physical custody, the non custodial parent has 89 or fewer days with the child in a calendar year.
In a primary physical custody situation, child support is the same, and it doesn’t matter whether the non custodial parent spends no time at all with the child or takes up the entire 89 days, child support will be the same. In fact, it’s fairly easy to calculate, and you can read how to do it here. (Spoiler alert: You will have to do some math.)
Shared Physical Custody
In a shared physical custody situation, on the other hand, the non custodial parent has 90 or more days with the child in a calendar year. There’s a lot more flexibility here, because shared custody arrangements can look very different, depending on how much time each of you has with the child. Lots of people hear shared custody and think that it means that custody is shared 50/50 (or something fairly close to that). Though that can be the case, with parents sharing week on/week off custody or, alternatively, just making sure that each parent gets 182.5 days, it’s often not nearly that much time.
Remember that shared custody is anything over and beyond that 90 day threshold, so it can look very different depending on the specific arrangement involved.
With shared physical custody, child support changes depending on how much time each parent has with the child. It’s based on a sliding scale, depending on how much time each parent has with the child.
What goes into a child support calculation?
A child support calculation is based on very specific things—the income of both parties, whether either (or both) have a child support obligation to a child born of another relationship, the amount paid in health insurance premiums for the benefit of the child, and the amount paid in work related child care.
So, essentially, there’s an amount of child support that should be paid based on the income of both parties and the number of children. That number, which you can see in the table here in the Virginia Code, is then shared by the parties according to their contribution—essentially, the amount of time they have with the child.
In other words, the child support obligation is a fixed number. It’s the same for any child with the same number of siblings whose parents earn the same amount; what changes is how much of a share of the child support obligation each parent has.
The parent who has the child less pays child support, right? And the parent who has the child more receives child support, true?
Usually, but not necessarily! Child support is shared based on how much each party earns—and, of course, the other factors—child support to other children, health care expenses for the minor child, and work related child care expenses.
Let’s look at a couple of examples to get an idea of how a child support calculation might work.
Primary Physical Custody
Example 1: Jack and Rose have a daughter named Molly. Jack works as an artist, earning $60,000 a year. Rose stays at home with Molly, and earns no income. In Virginia in 2016, according to current child support calculations, Jack would pay Rose $755 a month. The child support obligation is $755, and it isn’t shared between the parties because Rose earns no income on her own.
Example 2: Let’s look at Jack and Rose again. Jack is still an artist, earning $60,000 a year. Rose is a paralegal at a law firm, also earning $60,000 per year. Now, the child support obligation is $1,054 a month (because now we have an extra $50,000 in income per year), but Jack’s child support payment is $527 a month.
Example 3: Now, let’s discuss one more example using Jack and Rose and a primary physical custodial arrangement. Jack works as an artist, earning $60,000 per year. Rose still has primary physical custody, only now Rose is a plastic surgeon, earning $300,000 per year. Now, even though Rose still has primary physical custody and keeps Molly with her most of the time (Jack has 89 or fewer days in a calendar year), the child support obligation is $1,924, and Rose pays Jack $321 per month.
Shared Physical Custody
Example 1: Allie and Noah have a son named Finn. Noah works as a master carpenter, earning $100,000 a year. Allie stays home with Finn, and earns no income. Noah has 90 days with the child in a year, getting him just past the shared custody threshold. The child support obligation is $1,355, and Noah pays Allie $1,021 per month.
Example 2: Let’s look at Allie and Noah in another way. Noah is still a master carpenter, earning $100,000 a year. Allie is still a stay at home mom, and earns no income. Noah has 180 days with the child in a year—well beyond the shared custody threshold. The child support obligation is still the same, only Noah is now only responsible for paying Allie $687 per month.
Example 3: Noah is a master carpenter, earning $100,000 a year. Allie is a personal injury attorney, earning $300,000 per year. Noah has 90 days with Finn in a calendar year. The shared support guideline is $2,754, but, in this example, Noah only has to pay Allie $9 per month.
Example 4: Noah is a master carpenter, earning $100,000 a year. Allie is a personal injury attorney, earning $300,000 per year. Noah has 180 days with Finn in a calendar year. The shared support guideline is still $2,754, but, in this example, Allie pays Noah $670 per month.
Does that shed a little more light on the way child support guidelines work? It may seem like it’s fairly cut and dry because, in most cases, it is.
Still, it’s also possible for the parent who has the child less to receive Virginia child support, rather than pay it, and it’s also possible that the parent’s incomes and time with the child equalizes to the point that no support is due. Who receives Virginia child support is a pretty fact specific determination, and it has to do with how much both parties earn, and how much time each party has with the child(ren) in question.
For more information on child support, or to find out whether you’re likely to receive Virginia child support, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200, and we’ll set you up with a confidential one hour appointment with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys.