Divorcing parents not only have to decide on custody of children, but also financial support. It’s important to think of the future when determining child support to avoid court battles and rehashing old issues. Working toward an agreeable plan is always preferred and less costly; however, if you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms, the judge will determine the amount of child support using a presumptive guideline formula under Virginia law. Even if you can settle it yourselves, a judge will still need to endorse an order and ensure that it passes legal muster. Once you have an order, you can request to modify the child support at a future time, but there needs to be a compelling reason to do so. A few examples would be in the case of job loss or promotion, changes in custody or childcare costs, a significant change in the child’s needs, or outstanding medical costs for the child.
The presumptive formula used by the courts is meant to broadly cover all needs of the children at issue. If there are special circumstances in your case (such as extraordinary medical bills or special schooling), the court can deviate from the guidelines. The courts usually try to make sure the children are able to maintain the lifestyle they enjoyed before the divorce (finances permitting). The courts usually mandate that at least one parent carries medical insurance for the children and then determines how non-covered costs are split between the parents.
If for some reason you are temporarily unable to pay support, do not make oral agreements with the payee. It won’t hold up in court and you could find yourself in contempt of court with serious consequences, potentially even a jail sentence. All modifications of support terms should be in writing, reviewed by your attorney, and ultimately entered as an order by the court.