Archive for the ‘Support’ Category

Can we just agree to change the child support amount?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

I had a person in my office recently who said that he and the children’s mother had agreed to reduce the amount of child support he had to pay because he was laid off from his old job and his new job didn’t pay as much.  They even had a document that said the amount would be reduced, and it was notarized.  He thought their agreement would cancel the court order.

And then she took him to court for non-payment and he was charged with failure to comply with an order of the court which included a possible jail sentence of up to one year.

First of all, when the Judge issues that piece of paper telling you what to do… it is not a suggestion….it is not an example….it is not an ‘if you want to’ or ‘if you feel like it’.  It is an ORDER.  That means you have to do it or face consequences.

Secondly, having a document notarized does not make it more ‘legal’ than having a document that isn’t notarized.  Most of the time, a notarization just means that the person signing the document produced identification saying they were the person who’s name was on the document.  This may keep your girlfriend from signing your wife’s name, but it doesn’t make the document legal.

What they should have done was to go to court to file a motion to amend child support due to a material change in circumstances.  His change in employment status would probably have met the criteria for a material change, especially if both of them agreed.  Then the court would have recalculated the child support payment from the date of the petition.  You can also provide the court with a ‘Consent Order’ that says you agree to an amount even if that amount is different from the amount that would be calculated by the statutory guidelines.

Sure it takes time out of your day to go to court to get the amount changed….but it is probably worth it when you consider the amount of time you might be spending going to court on a show cause….and the possibility of going to jail!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Were you furloughed, and can’t afford to pay child support?

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

I get a lot of questions about child support obligations and the fact that the person ordered to make the payments has had his or her income reduced because of ___________ (there are lots of reasons, including the recent furloughs).

The most common reaction is that people just decide to not pay because they don’t have the money.  This is a BAD decision.

In Virginia, if you don’t make your child support payments, you can end up in jail for up to 12 months.  That’s right, you can go to jail for not making your child support payments.   And guess what happens to your child support obligation while you’re in jail?  It just keeps on going and your past due balance keeps getting bigger and interest on that past due balance keeps accumulating.  The hole just keeps getting bigger.

You can also have any tax refunds diverted to make a payment toward child support.  And your driver’s license may be suspended.

All in all, it is not a pleasant experience.

So, what are you supposed to do if you’ve been furloughed, fired, or laid off, or you just can’t find a job and your income has been reduced?

First of all, you should know how child support is calculated to see if your reduced income will make a difference.  I wrote a post here about how to calculate child support and  here about where to find a calculator online.

If it looks like your reduced income will make a difference, you should contact the Juvenile and Domestic Relations  District (JDR)  court where the last court order was entered that told you to make child support payments.  Ask them about the procedure for submitting a petition to amend child support.

If your case was done through the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), then go to the office where your case is being handled and ask for a reconsideration and recalculation.

If your child support obligation was set during a divorce proceeding, you need to check the final decree of divorce to see if the matters concerning child support have been transferred to the JDR court.

It is sometimes confusing, so it might be a good idea to at least have a consultation with an attorney about what to do.  We often have people come into the office for a consultation and we are able to give them enough information for them to complete the process on their own.

You also want to be sure to make some sort of payment on your child support even if you can’t make the entire payment each month.  This shows good faith, and it will also help minimize the past due amount that is being charged interest.

What you do NOT want to do is just ignore the fact that your income has been reduced and you can not make your payments.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Calculating Child Support In Virginia

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about how to calculate child support in Virginia (see the post here).

Basically, Virginia has decided that a child should be able to share in the standard of living of the parents and the parents’ gross monthly income is used as a means of determining that standard of living.

Virginia also recognizes that some things are going to cost the same whether they are used by one child or 3 children, so the child support obligation is a ‘unitary’ obligation for the total number of children and not a set amount for each child.  For example, a family income of $5,000 per month yields a total child support obligation of $666 for one child, $1036 for two children (an increase of $370 for the second child), $1295 for three children (an increase of $259 for the third child), etc.  Whether you like this idea or not tends to depend on whether you are paying or receiving the child support payment, and whether you are just starting your child support obligation or your child is reaching the age at which a child support payment is no longer required.

The mechanics are still the same as when I wrote the previous post and the support numbers are still available in the Code of Virginia at section 20-108.2.  And there are still a number of specific details that might cause your individual case to be calculated just a little bit differently.

What has changed is that there used to be a lot of places online where you could find a child support calculator.  Notably, the Department of Social Services used to have an online calculator and consumers could go there to get an estimate of what they might receive, or what they might be ordered to pay.  There is still a menu item on the DSS website pointing you to a page to calculate Child Support.  However, that page now tells you that they no longer provide the calculator and you should search on the internet for a place to purchase software to do the calculation for you.

I’m an attorney, and I calculate child support every week, so it might make sense for me to purchase the software.  However, you might only want to calculate child support once a year at most and it doesn’t really make sense for you to purchase anything.  So I wanted to see if I could find a place on the internet to send my clients who were wanting to figure out what might happen to their child support if they got a raise (or a reduction) in pay.

My new favorite place to find Virginia online child support calculations is by going to SupportSolver.com.

A parent who doesn’t deal with child support all the time may not know what goes into each specific line, but they can always just enter the basic income information and get a good starting estimate of the support amount.  Reading the line items on the form can also be a good tool for forming questions to ask your attorney when you meet to discuss child support.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

What Is An ‘Uncontested Divorce’?

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I often have potential clients come into my office saying that they want an ‘uncontested divorce’, that quickly evolves into a ‘contested divorce’ instead.  Most of the time that is because the client really doesn’t understand what is meant by an ‘uncontested divorce’.

It is more than just an agreement that the marriage should be ended.

At least one of the Circuit Courts in this area has detailed exactly what they consider to be an ‘Uncontested Divorce’:

(a) All of the issues regarding the division of property have been agreed to by the parties; and

(b) The grounds are separation for the statutory period (no-fault); and

(c) Child support, spousal support, custody, and/or visitation are not requested; or if they are requested; there is a written and signed agreement between the spouses.

Of course, there is often no signed agreement when you first come to the attorney’s office for a consultation, but in order to have a true uncontested divorce, you need to have full agreement between the husband and wife about the important aspects of the property division and matters concerning the children.

I suggest that the husband and wife should write down what they understand to be in the agreement, so both parties have a copy of what is going to be put in the final agreement drafted by the attorney.  Once the details are given to the attorney, he or she can put those details into the proper form.

If any of the above are not true, then you probably do not have an uncontested divorce.  This does not necessarily mean that the divorce has to be contentious or that we can not quickly get to an agreement, but it will take at least a minimum of time and effort.

Usually, if the other spouse has retained an attorney for anything other than to just prepare or review some paperwork, the divorce is considered contested.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Child Support and Custody (and visitation)

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Custody and visitation go hand-in-hand because if one parent has physical custody, the time that the child spends with the other parent is called visitation.  Most people are comfortable with how these work together.

Most people are also comfortable with the idea that the parent who has physical custody of the child can receive child support from the other parent.

Sometimes the visiting parent, who is also ordered to pay child support, may not be making those child support payments on time.  That is a problem all by itself and it can be handled through the courts.

But making or not making child support payments is only one factor to be considered when determining visitation.  Not making child support payments alone should not keep a parent from having visitation with his or her child.

The bottom line is that if the court has allowed visitation with the child, the custodial parent cannot deny visitation just because the visiting parent is not current in his or her child support payments.

So, what do you do if you are reading this and you are in the position where you are behind in your child support payments and your child’s custodial parent won’t let you see your children?  The specific action will depend on what court orders are already in place concerning custody, visitation and support.

If you don’t have copies of the orders, you can go to the clerk’s office and request copies.  (this is also a good place to mention that these orders are very important and you should keep copies in a safe place so you have access to them when needed).

My suggestion is to then take those orders with you when you consult with an attorney.  That attorney will be able to read the orders, listen to your story, and give you a plan of how to go about trying to get what you want based on the laws that pertain to your situation.

From a very personal standpoint, I find it very sad when a father wants to see his children, but he doesn’t even try because he is behind in child support.  It is sad for the father, it is sad for the grandparents and other family members, but most of all, it is sad for the child.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.