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Virginia child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Virginia child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Virginia child support determined?

In Virginia, either or both parents may be ordered to pay child support, based on the following factors:

  • the financial resources of the child
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not ended
  • the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child
  • the earning power of each parent
  • the age and health of the child
  • how the marital property was divided
  • both the monetary and non-monetary contributions each parent makes to the family’s well being
  • the education of the parents and their ability to secure education and training
  • tax consequences
  • any special medical, dental or child care expenses
  • the financial resources, needs and obligations of each parent
  • any other relevant factors

There are official Virginia Child Support guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to help determine the correct amount of child support. The guidelines will be followed unless the parents have agreed to a child support amount that at least equals the amount in the guidelines, or the courts determine the guidelines are unjust for a particular case based upon the relevant evidence pertaining to the following factors:

  • actual monetary support for other children, other family members or former family members
  • arrangements regarding custody of the children
  • attributed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily under-employed, as long as income may not be attributed to the custodial parent when a child is not in school and child care services are not available, and the cost of such child care services are not included in the computation
  • debts of either party arising during the marriage for the benefit of the child
  • debts incurred for production of income
  • direct payments ordered by the court for health care coverage, maintaining life insurance coverage, education expenses or other court-ordered direct payments for the benefit of the child costs related to the provision of health care coverage
  • extraordinary capital gains such as capital gains resulting from the sale of the marital house
  • age, physical and mental condition of the child or children, including extraordinary medical or dental expenses and child care expenses
  • independent financial resources (if any) of the child or children
  • standard of living for the family established during the marriage
  • earning capacity, obligations, needs and financial resources of each parent
  • education and training of the parties and the ability and opportunity for the parties to secure such training and education
  • contributions, monetary and non-monetary, of each party to the well-being of the family
  • provisions made with regard to the marital property
  • tax consequences to the parties regarding claims for dependent children and child care expenses
  • a written agreement between the parties which includes the amount of child support
  • a stipulated decree, which includes the amount of child support agreed to by both parties or by counsel for the parties
  • such other factors, including tax consequences to each party as they are necessary to consider the equities for the parents and children

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or the child dies.

Virginia's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents agree upon decisions about parenting and custody. If there is no agreement between the parents, then the courts will make these decisions.

In Virginia, joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the best interests of the child and all relevant factors, including:

  • the age of the child
  • the child’s wishes
  • the child’s needs, including material needs
  • the love and affection that exists between the child and each parent
  • the mental and physical health of all involved
  • the role each parent has played in caring for the child
  • any history of domestic abuse

There is no preference given to either parent.

Virginia's medical insurance guidelines:

The court has the authority to order a party to provide health care coverage for the dependent children if it is available at a reasonable cost.

How permanent are the provisions for Virginia child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect a material change in circumstance.

The court may, upon petition of either of the parents, on its own motion or upon petition of public welfare, revise and alter court orders providing for support and custody of children as the circumstances of the parents and the benefit of the children may require. 

The intentional withholding of visitation of a child from the other parent without just cause may constitute a material change of circumstances justifying a change of custody in the discretion of the court.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Most states, including Virginia, have a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. The payments are withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

If a non-custodial parent can show that they are providing more than 50 percent of the support for dependents not included in the court order from a second marriage, and is not in arrears, no more than 50% of their disposable income can be attached if they cannot pay the full court-ordered amount of both orders.

That number goes to 55% if the non-custodial parent is in arrears, 60 percent for a person only providing support to dependents under the current order, and 65% for a person who is in arrears and paying only on the current order.

How does joint custody work?

Joint custody can be one of the following:

  1. joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child, even though the child's primary residence may be with only one parent
  2. joint physical custody where both parents share physical and custodial care of the child
  3. any combination of of joint legal and joint physical custody which the court deems to be in the best interest of the child

How Virginia determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree to exactly when visitation will occur, the standard visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays
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