Understanding the Virginia Child Support Calculator
Courts are often asked to determine the appropriate amount of child support payable between divorcing parents. Virginia Code Section 20-108.2 sets forth the “guidelines” used to calculate child support. The amount of support calculated with the guidelines is presumed to be the correct amount of child support, so it is important to have a thorough understanding of how these guidelines work.
To properly apply the guidelines, you must determine:
- The number of children for whom support is being sought.
- The custody and visitation arrangements for each child. If a parent has physical custody of the child for less than 90 days per year, then child support will be computed using the “sole custody support” calculator. If a parent has physical custody of the child for more than 90 days per year, then child support will be computed using the “shared custody support” calculator. If each parent has physical custody of a child or children, then child support will be computed using the “split custody support” calculator.
- The parents’ combined gross The Virginia Code broadly defines gross income as “income from all sources,” including, but not limited to, “income from salaries, ages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits […], workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, veterans’ benefits, spousal support, rental income, gifts, prizes or awards.”
- The cost of health and dental insurance for the children only. This is commonly determined by calculating the difference between family coverage and self-only coverage for the plan participant.
- The cost of work-related child care, however, these costs may not exceed the cost for “quality care from a licensed source.”
Once all the above are input, the calculator will determine each parent’s “guideline monthly support obligation.” If the parents’ monthly combined gross income is $599 or less, then $65 will be awarded as the minimum monthly child support payment. If the parents’ monthly combined gross income is $600 or more, then the individual monthly support obligation is determined by multiplying each respective parent’s percentage of the combined gross income calculation by the “guideline monthly support obligation.”
The amount generated by the child support guideline is presumed to be correct. However, the parties may agree to, or the court may order, a deviation from the guideline amount based on the unique circumstances of a situation. Sometimes it is appropriate to deviate from the child support guideline amount to account for travel or transportation costs related to custody exchanges, such as gas, tolls, or flights, or even for education costs, such as private school tuition, books, and other school supplies. Parents may also want to deviate from the child support guidelines to account for the cost of extracurricular activities or negotiate an agreement regarding college tuition. It may also be appropriate to deviate from the guidelines if a parent has unique circumstances. For example, child support may be reduced for a parent who has no housing cost.
An experienced family law attorney can consult with you about how your family’s unique circumstances may impact the amount of child support one receives.