Virginia law recognizes that a child has the right to support from both parents. The commonwealth’s child support guidelines base this support on the income from both parents, without regard to whether a parent is a mother or father. However, in practice, mothers are overwhelmingly the recipients of child support payments and mothers are the ones who suffer when those payments are inadequate or aren’t met. That’s also why most of the child custody disputes we manage at Morrison, Ross and Whelan involve mothers seeking support or attempting to enforce support orders. We draw on more than 25 years of family law experience to deliver the results our clients need.
Child support is wholly dependent on the parent-child relationship. When a couple is married, the husband is presumed to be the father of any children born during the marriage, and barring evidence to the contrary, must contribute child support after a divorce. When parents have not been married, the mother can file an application for child support with the Virginia Department of Social Services Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE). The father may agree to pay support or may deny paternity. In the latter case, the mother must establish paternity through a court proceeding.
Finally, if an unmarried father wants custody or visitation rights, he must file with the court to establish paternity, which would make him subject to child support.
Child support payments are meant to cover the basic expenses for the child: housing, food, clothing, and so on. Virginia has guidelines for determining the appropriate amount of child support based on:
Because statutory guidelines make child support relatively easy to calculate, arriving at the presumptive amount of basic support is relatively simple, provided that each parent is honest about their sources of incomes and deductions. However, each family is different and there may be grounds for requesting a deviation from the presumptive amount. The court has discretion to deviate in its order when the presumptive amount does not accurately reflect a parent’s ability to pay or serve the best interests of the children.
In our practice, we often help mothers obtain additional child support for expenses related to:
A court’s child support order has the force of law and stays in effect until the supporting parent dies, or until the child turns 18, or — if not yet a high school graduate — 19. The court may order a supporting parent to purchase life insurance to guarantee adequate child support until the child reaches the age of majority.
In our family law practice, we represent many mothers whose ex-spouses either refuse to pay child support or request a downward modification of their obligation. Under Virginia law, when a parent who has the ability to pay refuses to meet child support obligations, he or she is “guilty of a misdemeanor” and liable for a fine up to $500 or up to 12 months in jail, or both.
When a parent claims inability to pay and asks for a modification, he or she must demonstrate a substantial reduction in available income. We scrutinize their finances to determine whether the claim is valid. If a parent is deliberately earning less than he or she could to escape child support, the court can impute income to that parent and maintain the same level of child support.
If you are a mother and child support payments due to you are in arrears, you can trust our firm to take decisive steps to resolve this issue.
If you are seeking child support as part of a divorce or a paternity action, trust Morrison, Ross and Whelan to provide highly professional and determined representation. Call us today at 540-349-6262 or contact our office online to schedule a consultation. We are located just off 211 and business 29, in the heart of Fauquier County at 31 Garrett Street in Warrenton.