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How is child support calculated in Virginia?

Determining child support in Virginia may seem straightforward, as there is a statutory formula for calculating how much support is owed. Plus, in Virginia, there is a presumption that the amount of child support as calculated by the statutory guidelines is correct. However, this presumption can be rebutted. To rebut this presumption, there must be findings that the amount calculated per the guidelines is unjust or inappropriate for the parties’ specific situation, based on certain factors that affect the parents’ obligations, ability to pay and the best interests of the child.

One factor is the amount of financial support given to other family members or former family members. Another factor is the child custody arrangements the parents have, which includes expenses related to traveling for visitation periods. A third factor is, with some exemptions related to child care and the pursuit of an educational or vocational program, imputed income to a parent who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Child care costs incurred by a parent who is in an educational or vocational program to maintain or increase the income he or she earns are also considered. Another consideration is each parent’s earning capacity, obligations, financial resources and separate needs.

Each party’s marital debts relating to the child is another factor. Mandatory life insurance payments, educational expenses or other payments ordered by the court that are for the child’s benefit are also considered. Another factor is whether the parents experienced extraordinary capital gains from selling the marital home. If the child has special needs, this will be considered. Whether the child has any other independent source of financial resources is another factor. Another consideration is the standard of living the child enjoyed while the parents were married. Tax consequences due to exemptions and credits relating to the child will be considered. Another factor is whether the parents previously agreed to a certain amount of child support in writing. Finally, any other necessary equitable factors will be considered.

If the court decides to rebut the presumption that the statutory child support guideline is correct, it must issue an order in writing stating how much would have been owed per the statutory guidelines, along with the court’s justification for the deviation based on the above factors, along with any relevant evidence. It is essential for the well-being of the child that an appropriate amount of child support is paid. Child support can be a contentious issue between parents, so it is important that they understand how and why the court determines how much is to be owed.

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