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When may courts deviate from statutory child support guidelines?

Virginia, like other states in the nation, has statutory guidelines that dictate how much child support a parent will owe. However, these guidelines are not ironclad. A parent, in certain circumstances, can rebut the presumption that the statutory guidelines should be followed. The following are some factors the court will consider when determining whether it is appropriate to deviate from the commonwealth’s statutory child support guidelines.

One factor is the financial support a party is giving to other current or former family members. The parents’ child custody arrangements may also be considered, which includes expenses associated with traveling in order to exercise visitation periods with the child. The court may consider any imputed income to a parent who is voluntarily under-employed or unemployed, with some exceptions. Child care costs associated with the custodial parent’s pursuit of education or training that will allow them to earn a higher income may also be considered.

Any debts that either parent incurred while married to one another for the child’s benefit may be considered. Certain payments for life insurance coverage or other direct payments one parent is ordered by the court to pay for education expenses for the child’s benefit may be considered. If a parent sold the marital home, any extraordinary capital gains resulting from the sale may be considered.

If the child has special needs, this may be considered. Another factor is whether the child has any independent financial resources. The standard of living the child enjoyed while their parents were married may also be considered. Each parent’s earning capacity along with their financial resources and obligations may be considered as may any special needs a parent has. The division of marital assets that have an income-earning potential may be considered. Which parent will claim tax exemptions or credits relating to the child is another factor. Finally, if the parties have a written agreement regarding how much child support will be owed, this may be considered.

In the end, however, all these factors are very fact-specific, and this post cannot guarantee any certain outcome in any specific case. Any decisions made will be made on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, it is important that parents seeking a deviation from the child support guidelines understand how the law applies to their situation, so they can make informed decisions moving forward.

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