Virginia Family Law: Factors Considered when Determining Child Support

Under the Code of Virginia (VA Code 20-61), paying child support is a legal obligation.  In Virginia, the general rule is that there is never a situation where a parent is not liable for some sort of child support.  In fact, as of the date of this article, the minimum child support obligation in Virginia is sixty-eight ($68) dollars per month.

While it is common to believe that a child support obligation is an arbitrary number, the Courts of Virginia utilize a formula established by the Department of Social Services, under Virginia Code 20-108.2, to calculate a person’s child support obligation. This formula can be found by completing the Virginia Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (see link below).

At its base, the child support guidelines uses the parties combined monthly gross income and the parties custody arrangement to determine the support obligation. In the most cases, the parent who is not the primary custodian, will be the one paying support. This is because the Commonwealth of Virginia beings with the presumption that the custodial parent has already met their support obligation as they are ones who generally maintain the child’s well-being on a day-to-day basis. That being said, there are additional factors that can increase or decrease one’s support obligation.  A licensed Virginia family law attorney can review the facts involved in your case and help you best approach any argument to increase or decrease one’s support obligation.

Generally once the Judge determines each party’s income, he or she will then ask if there are any child care costs (i.e. daycare or after-school care) and any costs for healthcare for the child. Both of these factors, child care costs and healthcare costs, can increase the support obligation as it means that one party or the other is incurring an additional expense to maintain or promote the child’s welfare. The cost of healthcare can also have an impact on the party’s unpaid medical expenses obligation, which can also be determined on the Virginia Child Support Guidelines worksheet.

However, healthcare costs can also work in the paying party’s favor. In some cases, if the party found to be paying the support is the same party who covers the child’s healthcare, then the Judge may find that that person is entitled to a “credit”, or a factor that leads to a decrease in the support obligation. Instead of paying extra support each month for the other party to obtain healthcare coverage or the party, the paying party with current coverage may be ordered to maintain that coverage in lieu of additional support. Other “credits” may include the paying party having another child and/or support obligation with an external third party (i.e. a child from another relationship for which they pay support). It is important to remember that the intent of child support is not to put an unfair financial burden on anyone and thus the Courts often listen to argument from counsel and allow for these “credits” to ensure that the child’s needs are met, but also so the parents are financially able to meet their child’s needs.

The last important factor in determining support is whether or not the paying party owes and arrearage. Arrears are money that is owed for past expenses. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the date that the child support obligation becomes effective is the date that the petitioning party files a request for child support with the Court. Given the backlog and heavy case loads of many Courts throughout the Commonwealth, it is possible that support may not be determined for months after the initial filing date. In these cases, the Court may find that the paying party may owe money for those months that the support obligation was pending. This could result in an additional monetary amount being added to the paying party’s monthly support obligation as way to make up for those months where the other party was providing more support than what is considered equitable.

If you have questions about how to use the Virginia Child Support Guidelines Worksheet or questions about child support in general, we encourage you to reach out to our firm at 804-423-1382 or We would be happy to schedule a one-on-one consultation with you and one of our knowledgeable attorneys to assist you in your case.