Child Support

Child support is an important tool that helps to ensure that children are financially supported even if their parents are not together. The amount of support one parent has to pay is calculated according to state guidelines – with room for discretion when called for. If you have a child support case, are facing a child support concern, or need a child support modification, an experienced family attorney serving Virginia, Maryland, and the DC area can help.

Child Support Guidelines and Laws

Child support laws and guidelines vary somewhat between states, but the basics are consistent.

Factors that Affect Child Support

Generally, guideline child support is determined using a range of primary factors like the following:

  • The number of children supported
  • The cost of the children’s health insurance
  • The cost of the children’s daycare
  • Whether custody is sole or joint and the number of days each parent spends with the children
  • Each parent’s income

Additional factors the court may consider are:

  • Each parent’s level of education and occupational qualifications
  • Each parent’s age and overall mental and physical health
  • Each parent’s earning capacity and whether a parent is “under-employed”
  • The cost of extraordinary medical expenses
  • Income tax considerations related to the exemptions and credits for the child

Virginia, Maryland and D.C. each have a different approach to calculating support.

Child Support Enforcement

Child support enforcement is overseen by each state’s Department of Social Services. Often, child support payments are collected through withholding orders, which allow for more

accurate payment tracking and help to ensure that the primary custodial parent receives timely payments. If a withholding order is entered, the assigned social services agency will collect the payments.

Parents who fail to live up to their child support obligations can face state enforcement sanctions. The parent who receives child support, however, cannot retaliate by withholding visitation, which is based on the best interest of the children and, as such, is a completely different matter.

Child Support Termination

Generally speaking, child support obligations terminate when a child reaches the age of majority or is self-supporting. Virginia, Maryland and D.C. have different rules about when child support obligations terminate. You should also keep in mind that, if a child support order includes more than one child, the order does not necessarily automatically terminate when the oldest child reaches the age of majority or is self-supporting. You may have to seek a modification – or change – to the child support order. It is important to consult with a knowledge family law attorney in the jurisdiction where your order was issued.

Child Support Modification

In order to modify – or change – a child support order, one of the parents must request the change, which will not happen automatically. Child support modifications are based on material – or significant – changes in circumstances, such as the following:

  • The obligor’s income increasing or decreasing significantly
  • The obligor losing their job
  • The recipient’s income increasing or decreasing significantly
  • The needs of one of the children changing significantly, such as in relation to an illness or disability
  • Significant changes in relation to the child custody arrangements

Child support modifications are instigated by one of the parents filing a motion with the court.

Child Support Arrears

States take court-ordered child support payments that go unpaid very seriously, and they’re called child support arrears. While child support is generally paid to the custodial parent, it’s owed to the children involved, and as such, the state takes a dim view of parents who ignore their financial responsibility to their children. 

The Consequences of Nonpayment

Failing to pay one’s child support obligation can lead to serious consequences, such as:

  • The withholding of child support from wages or unemployment benefits
  • Fines
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Criminal charges, which can mean jail time
  • Denial of a passport application or renewal – once arrears reach a certain level
  • Credit reporting that can directly affect one’s overall credit
  • In certain situations, federal penalties, such as in response to deadbeat parents who move from one state to another in an attempt to outrun child support arrears
  • Property liens or the seizing of property
  • Garnishment of financial accounts
  • Interception of tax refunds

Resolving Child Support Arrears

Arrears is money a parent owes for the back support he or she did not pay. The amount of the arrears affects how aggressive the state will be in collecting and holding the parent responsible for not paying. For example, if it’s a first offense and the parent quickly responds, the state may seek minimal penalties or, sometimes, may waive the penalties altogether. Ultimately, the state has considerable discretion in the matter. The more serious the parent’s child support arrears are, the more aggressively the state’s efforts are likely to be in relation to resolving the matter. Also, keep in mind that in the DC metro area people often move between Virginia, Maryland and D.C. Quite often, a child support order issued in one state has to be enforced in another state when the paying parent moves. Many states have agreements to work with other states to enforce orders where the paying parent lives. It is important to consult with a knowledge family law attorney in the jurisdiction where the enforcement action is filed.

Consult a Family Law Attorney about Your Child Support Case

If you’re facing a child support concern, the first order of business is reaching out for the legal guidance you need, and the seasoned family law attorneys at Bourdon & Tortolero – serving Virginia, Maryland, and the DC area – are on your side. Our seasoned legal team appreciates how important child support payments are to your household, and we’ll leave no stone unturned in our focused efforts to effectively and efficiently resolve your case as favorably as possible. To learn more about what we can do to help you, please don’t wait to contact or call us at 703-646-8390 today.

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