Virginia Child Support Obligations: An Introduction

Even after a marriage ends, the obligations of a parent continue. In addition to the emotional support that each parent should continue to provide a child after a divorce, parents have a responsibility to see that their child's basic physical needs are met. Those needs include housing, food, clothing and medical care. To ensure that parents fulfill these obligations, courts order custody, visitation and child support.

Physical Custody

During a divorce proceeding, where a child will live is a critical concern that the court will address, if the parents are otherwise unable to agree. Physical custody may be joint, shared or sole and will always be determined by the best interests of the child. Courts consider the factors set out in Section 20-124.3 of the Virginia Code including the child's age, health, and development, as well as each parent's ability to meet the child's needs.

Child Support

Both parents have a duty to financially support their children. Courts use child support guidelines to aid them in determining the amount of money a parent should regularly contribute to his or her child's needs. The guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model used to calculate child support.

Custody arrangements generally factor into child support determinations. Courts use a different formula if the non-custodial parent has more than 90 overnights per year. The shared custody support formula usually results in a lower child support amount.

Although the guideline amount of support is presumed correct, courts may deviate from the guideline amount when appropriate, based on the statutory factors. A child support amount may be increased or decreased based on "material changes" in circumstances in either the child's or the parents' lives. To further ensure a child's financial security, Virginia courts can order a parent to maintain a life insurance policy, in case the parent should die.

Education

A parent's child support obligation ends when a child reaches the age of eighteen, years unless the child is a full time high school student. In this situation, support continues for that child until she graduates from high school or reaches age 19, whichever first occurs. In early 2011, lawmakers tried to expand that cut-off to 23 years for full time students by introducing legislation that would require parents of college-aged children to help foot the tuition bill. The proposal did not make it past a House subcommittee.

Virginia Child Support Lawyer

While marital obligations may end, parental responsibilities do not. Those responsibilities are so important that courts will step in to ensure they are being fulfilled and a child's basic necessities are being met. If you are a parent contemplating divorce or struggling with questions regarding custody or child support, contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss your situation and your options.