Who Must Pay Child Support in Virginia
In Virginia, both parents have an obligation to support their children financially. The state holds each parent responsible for covering a certain percentage of the entire child support amount, including health and dental care.
Virginia child support laws presume that the custodial parent already covers many costs involved in caring for a child. For this reason, the non-custodial parent makes the support payments.
How is Child Support Determined in Virginia?
Virginia uses the state child support guidelines to ensure a fair and consistent application of child support.
In simple terms, the guidelines look at:
- The needs of the child
- The combined incomes of the parents
- How involved each parent is in raising the child
From this, the child support guidelines use a complex mathematical formula to decide the specific amount parents must pay every month. The child support formula for determining an amount uses information parents give in this worksheet.
If you need help calculating child support, call the DCSE Customer Service Center at 1-800-468-8894 to speak with child support staff, Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
To dig deeper, you can review the Child Support Guidelines, which are part of the Code of Virginia, Section 20-108.2.
The courts and state agencies can’t do anything unless a written, official order exists. It’s critical to ensure that an informal agreement is incorporated into a formal court order.
After a child support order is in place, everyone has to abide by it. If the noncustodial parent doesn’t make support payments in accordance with the order, then the custodial parent has various options for enforcing the order and collecting past-due support.
It’s not always necessary for a court to issue a child support order. The Virginia Department of Social Services can issue a child support order based on the courts’ guidelines.
Determining Income for Child Support
A parent’s income is more than what they earn from a paycheck. It includes salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, veterans’ benefits, or payments from social security, workers’ compensation, disability, and unemployment insurance.
Other sources of income include what a parent receives for spousal support, rental income, and lottery winnings or awards.
Some exceptions include public assistance and federal supplemental security income (SSI), child support already received, or earmarked to support another child. If you pay spousal support, you can deduct that payment from your income.
Child support guidelines are used with monthly incomes up to $35,000. If your income exceeds $35,000, the guidelines provide additional percentages for income above that amount.
Many couples who split up can reach an informal agreement about child support. However, these informal agreements do not give the courts or a state agency the power to go after delinquent or “deadbeat” parents who don’t pay child support.
Read More: Divorce Laws in Virginia
Deviating from Guideline Child Support
There’s a rebuttable presumption that the amount of support provided by the guidelines is correct. However, child support laws allow judges to deviate from the guidelines if they believe adhering to guidelines would be unfair to a parent or the child.
To order a different amount from the guidelines, the court will consider the following factors:
- Support for other family members
- Custody arrangements of the children, including the cost of visitation
- Imputed income to a parent who is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed
- Debts incurred for the child’s benefit
- Life insurance, education expenses, or other court-ordered payments
- Extraordinary capital gains such as from the sale of the marital home
- Special needs of a child resulting from any physical, emotional, or medical condition
- A child’s independent financial resources
- The child’s standard of living during the marriage
- The parents’ earning capacity, debts, financial resources, and special needs
- The earning potential of marital property
- Tax consequences
- Written agreement about child support
- Any other factors concerning fairness
When judges deviate from the guidelines, they must state in writing the amount of support that would have been required under the guidelines and justify why the support order varies from the guidelines.
Some parents attempt to shirk their responsibility for child support by voluntarily decreasing their income. This differs from when a parent’s decreased income is based on a legitimate reason.
If a judge thinks that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed, income can be imputed for that parent. This means the court will calculate what the parent could be earning and base income for child support on that figure. The court will look at the parent’s work history, prior earnings, education level, and the availability of jobs in the region.
Does a new spouse have an impact on support?
A third party’s income does not directly affect a child support agreement, but it is considered a deviating factor when determining a parent’s ability to meet their child’s living expenses. A new spouse’s income is also important when the parent no longer works due to the income.
The Impact of Custody and Visitation on Child Support
Keep in mind that child support and custody are two separate legal issues. However, the custody and visitation schedule plays a role in the determination of child support.
When you complete the child support worksheet, you will need to enter the number of children with sole/split custody (children with one parent for 275 or more days) and shared custody (children with each parent for at least 91 days).
Also, missed child support payments do not automatically constitute grounds for a parent receiving child support to keep the other parent from seeing their children for missed payments.
If a parent is not making child support payments and/or refusing to follow the custody order, you should consult with an attorney.
Are child support payments withheld if I am approved for unemployment benefits?
Child support payments are withheld from your unemployment benefits. You are responsible for the remainder of the support payment due each month if the full amount of your child support obligation is not withheld from your unemployment.
What happens if a noncustodial parent goes to jail?
Unless the noncustodial parent participates in a work-release program or has other attachable assets, DCSE has no way to collect support from an incarcerated noncustodial parent. The support continues to be owed, and interest may accrue on the unpaid support.
Read More: How to File For Divorce in Virginia
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Virginia child support calculations include the cost of health insurance for children. However, the calculations do not include unreimbursed medical expenses, which are things like co-pays and deductibles.
The custodial parent must cover the annual unreimbursed medical costs of $250 or under. But if the costs exceed $250, they will be split on an income pro-rata basis. Income pro-rata means that if you make twice as much as your ex, you will pay twice as much for unreimbursed medical costs.
When Does Child Support End in Virginia?
A child support obligation ends when a child turns 18. However, there are some instances when a support order can be extended past 18, such as when the child is a full-time high school student who is not self-supporting and lives in the parent’s home seeking or receiving child support.
Under those circumstances, support continues until the child reaches age 19 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.
The court can also order continued support for a child over 18 who meets the following requirements:
- The child is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled, and the disability existed before the child turned 18 (or 19, as indicated above)
- The child can’t live independently and support themselves, and
- The child resides in the parent’s home seeking or receiving child support.
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
You can apply online using the MyChildSupport Customer Service Portal. You will be taken to a secure website where you can enter the information necessary to complete an application.
It should take 15-20 minutes to complete all of the required fields of the online application. Note that this information cannot be saved for completion at a later time.
If you prefer to submit a paper application, print and complete the Application for Child Support Services.
If you already have a child support order, you must print and complete a Statement of Payments.
Please ensure you have completed and signed the documents and have attached any additional documents requested. You can fax or mail your completed application packet to the District Office where you live.
If you want to learn more about the Division of Child Support Enforcement services, please read our Every Child Needs Support Brochure.
Enforcing Virginia Child Support Orders
If a parent is not following the child support order, state and federal laws allow the DCSE and the courts to collect the money you owe. Some ways orders are enforced include:
- Income withholding from your wages
- Issuing liens and orders to withhold money in bank accounts and other financial institution accounts
- Seizing and selling your property
- Intercepting state and federal payments and refunds
- Reporting past-due support to consumer reporting agencies
- Requesting the Secretary of State to deny, revoke, restrict or limit your passport
- Withholding support from your unemployment benefits.
If you owe at least $5,000 or are behind at least 90 days in your payments, or you fail to respond to a subpoena, summons, or warrant, DCSE may take the following actions:
- Ask the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend or refuse to renew your driver’s license.
- Ask the court to require you to turn in any certificate, registration, or other business, trade, professional, occupational, or recreational license (including hunting and fishing) issued to you.
Missed child support payments can happen for various reasons, but they cannot be waived except in a few specific circumstances.
Also, according to statutory standards, missed payments accrue interest at 6% per year.
Judges can fine or jail delinquent parents for “contempt of court” and might also require a delinquent parent to pay a portion of the outstanding child support as a condition of being released from jail.
If the paying parent moves out of Virginia, DCSE can work with another state’s agencies to collect child support.
Modifying Virginia Child Support Payments
You can request a review of your support order every three years. If it’s been less than three years since your order was reviewed, you must have certain special circumstances for an order to be modified. Those circumstances include:
According to Section 20-108 of the Virginia Code, a child support order can be modified under the following circumstances.
- If the parent who pays child support has lost their job;
- If the income of the parent who pays child support has decreased substantially – at least by 25% or more – due to a demotion or job change;
- If either of the parents gets a substantial raise or lands a high-paying job;
- If either of the parents inherits a significant amount of money;
- If there is a considerable increase – at least by 25% or more – in the cost of childcare;
- If the child has developed a disability or is suffering from a health problem and requires additional care as a result;
- If the child support order issued by the court does not have any provisions for the costs associated with the child’s health and dental insurance;
- If there is a substantial increase – at least by 25% or more – in the child’s health or dental insurance premiums;
- If the child has become emancipated, reached 18, or graduated from high school and no longer needs financial assistance from their parents.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the non custodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.
Which Agency Handles Child Support in Virginia?
The Virginia Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) works with the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement and other state agencies to administer child support.
The primary goal of DCSE is to work with parents and guardians to help establish and receive financial and medical support, but it does provide several other support services. Either parent or a legal guardian can apply for child support services.
The DSS is headquartered at:
Virginia Department of Social Services
801 E.Main Street
Richmond VA 23219-2901
Customer Service Center (800) 468-8894
Go here to see a list of district offices.
If you are directed to make payments through Virginia DCSE, send payments to:
Treasurer of Virginia
P.O. Box 570
Richmond, VA 23218
You must include your name and Social Security number on all payments.
How do I contact DSCE?
Start by visiting the MyChidSupport portal. It provides valuable information and resources that will assist you with your case.
You can also call 1.800.468.8894 and speak to customer service representatives who are available Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.
You may also use the AskDCSE@dss.virginia.gov email account to send messages to the appropriate caseworkers for assistance.
Can DCSE help me if I have a child support case in another state?
If you already have a child support case in your state, contact the child support agency to learn if it has requested assistance from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
If you don’t have an active child support case, you may want to apply for services in the state where you live. While you can apply directly with Virginia DCSE, you should know you might be required to travel to Virginia to attend court hearings.
Also, if you receive public assistance benefits from another state may not apply for DCSE services in Virginia.
Can DCSE help me if the other parent lives in another country?
DCSE has reciprocal agreements with several countries and can establish a working relationship with other countries as needed through the Office of the Attorney General, but that process can be lengthy. We are more successful with countries that have child support laws similar to the United States.
Read More: Virginia Divorce Guide
Establishing Paternity in Virginia
Establishing paternity means reaching a legal decision about who is the father of a child.
This action is essential if you legally want to receive or provide child support or medical support and establish other important rights such as allowing a child to claim certain kinds of Social Security, disability, or veterans benefits if the father dies or becomes disabled. It also grants rights to inheritance from the father.
If a couple has a child while married, the law treats the husband as the child’s father when a couple has a child while married. In this case, paternity does not need to be established. However, if a couple waits to get married until after the child is born, they must establish paternity.
A common way to establish paternity for unmarried parents is by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form under oath. This is most often done in the hospital when the child is born. Signing an AOP ensures that the child’s original birth certificate includes the father’s name.
If you and your child’s other parent did not sign an AOP form or your child was not born during a marriage, you need to establish paternity for your child through other means, including:
- You can open a child support case through the DCSE. Either parent can request application information online or call 1-800-468-8894. Once an application for services is completed, you can take a DNA test through DCSE.
- Filing a petition at your area’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Each city and county in Virginia has a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
DNA testing takes place in DCSE’s district offices across the state. Medical testing professionals take the DNA samples by gently swabbing the inside of each participant’s mouth. The samples are then sent to the laboratory for testing. In most cases, you get test results in less than three weeks.
DCSE’s DNA testing costs less than $30 for each person tested, so testing for three participants (mother, father, and child) should cost less than $90.
Who pays is decided in part by the results. If DCSE arranges the tests and those tests find that the man tested is the father, he will be required to pay for the test. If the tests show that this man was not the father and there is an open case with DCSE, DCSE typically pays for the tests.
Genetic testing not arranged by DCSE or a court is generally paid for by the people involved.