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Family Law and Estate Planning Blog

Potential review of Virginia child support guidelines

Deciding the amount of child support to be paid by the noncustodial parent can be a complex process. This is particularly true when matters are made worse due to a stressful divorce and disputes over custody. It can be disheartening for the noncustodial parent to discover that a formula will determine the financial future for that parent and child.

Nearly ten years ago, a resident of Alexandria, VA, was involved in a divorce, and a child custody battle. Since then, he has remarried, and has an infant son with his wife. He is also the father of a 9-year-old boy from a prior relationship that ended in 2007.

As stated in Fairfax Times, Christian Paasch’s case was assigned a guardian ad litem who advised him and his previous partner to share custody of their son. The guardian ad litem for the child is an attorney who provides recommendations to the court about what is in the best interests of the child. The judge granted primary custody to the boy’s mother, and monthly visitation rights to the father. The amount of monthly child support Paasch said he was required to pay was nearly $1,000, excluding inflation.

But then his former partner moved with his son to New Mexico. Paasch was compelled to make a choice between taking a trip to see his son once a month and making child support payments. Naturally, he chose to pay child support. Upon appeal of the judge’s order, he obtained an agreement that permitted him to spend approximately half of every year with his son until the child was old enough to go to school.

Virginia makes a calculation of child support payments on the basis of the amount of children involved and the combined monthly gross income of both parents. In accordance with Virginia Code §20-108.2, a panel comprised of 15 members must revisit the state’s child support guidelines every four years since 2001. The panel is responsible for deciding whether the guidelines are sufficient, and to ensure that the rewards that are computed are an accurate reflection of the costs and expenses needed to raise a child.

During the panel’s most recent meeting on October 5, Paasch gave a presentation in which he spoke in favor of the elimination of the 90-day threshold and a 1.4 multiplier that is applied in shared custody cases. In Virginia, when the noncustodial parent spends 91 or more days annually with their child, the required amount of child support is reduced because the childcare responsibilities are, in all likelihood, more equally divided.

In these cases, the Code of Virginia provides that the amount of child support decided by the combined gross income formula is multiplied by 1.4. Thus, the payments rise by approximately 40 percent in comparison to cases in which one parent has sole custody.

Recently, there has been research concerning whether child support payments should be determined using some other means on the basis of the children’s ages or the cost of residing in various areas of the state. If you anticipate being involved in a custody battle, call the family law attorneys at McDevitt Law Office.