Archive for the ‘Support’ Category

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.

Statute of Limitations for Child Support?

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

About a year ago, I posted that there was really no statute of limitations on the payment of child support.  That was true at the time based on the Virginia Court of Appeals interpretation of the law as published in the case of Adcock v. Department of Social Serivices, 56 Va. App. 334, 693 S.E.2d 757 (2010).

Mr. Adcock was ordered to pay the back child support, and he appealed that decision to the Virginia Supreme Court.

In November of 2011 the Virginia Supreme Court issued their ruling in the case of Adcock v. Department of Social Services, 282 Va. 383 which reversed the ruling of the Virginia Court of Appeals and says that since the child support obligations are set and cannot be modified after the date on which the obligation is due, any payments that were due and unpaid were judgments that are subject to the 20 year statute of limitations.

What does this mean?  This means that the judgment to pay child support for any given month ‘expires’ 20 years from that month unless something is done to extend that judgment.

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.

Can I sue for back child support if we just had a verbal agreement?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

I found this question in my email this week, and it is one that I get relatively often.

This is not just a question about child support.  It is also a question about whether or not you can enforce the terms of a verbal agreement.

Verbal agreements are valid.  You don’t necessarily need to have a written agreement to do anything, and we do it all the time.  Simple things like ‘I’ll meet you at noon for lunch’ is an agreement.  Or ‘I’ll pay for dinner if you get the tip’ is an agreement.  Most of the time these agreements work just fine and there are no problems.

But what if one party doesn’t do what was agreed?  What if I paid for dinner and you didn’t bring any money for the tip?  Or what if you brought money for the tip, but I didn’t bring enough money for dinner?

The problem is not whether the agreement was valid, the problem is whether or not you can enforce the terms of the agreement.

When you sue someone, you are asking the court to enforce the terms of your agreement.

The problem with verbal agreements is that there are often no other witnesses.  So if and when you go to court to ask the judge to enforce the agreement, the other person can just say that they didn’t make the verbal agreement.  Then it’s your word against theirs and the judge has a hard time finding sufficient evidence to enforce what you assert is an agreement.  Maybe the other person thought that they had only agreed to pay a tip up to one dollar?  Or maybe I agreed to pay for dinner, but only up to $10 and you ordered something much more expensive?  Or maybe I thought that the dinner was going to be that night and you cancelled and wanted to have the agreement reinstated for a dinner two months later?  And what if there was a witness to the agreement, but he is no longer available to testify, or maybe he forgot?  Maybe the other person thought it was a joke?  Or maybe the other person felt that they had to agree or something bad would happen to them?

Without something in writing, it is more difficult to prove the actual terms of the agreement.

Most people go to court to get a child support order.  An order of the court gives you extra power of enforcement because you can now bring a contempt charge if the person refuses to obey an order of the court.  The courts take these very seriously and a non-paying parent can be put in jail.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the amount that should be paid for child support is actually located in the Code of Virginia in Section 20-108.2 There are also online resources that can help you to calculate the correct amount of child support such as the Child Support Obligation Calculator on the Department of Social Services website.   The amount in the child support obligation calculator is the amount that the laws of Virginia say should be paid for the support of the child.  The laws of Virginia also allow the parents to agree to a different amount of support, so long as both parents agree that the different amount will be sufficient to pay for the child and that the custodial parent will not need to use government funds to supplement their household income.  The parents cannot agree to a lesser amount of support if the child is going to be eligible for TANF or WIC or any other government funds.  The parents may also agree to a higher amount of support if they wish.

If you are going to do this all on your own without the help of either the court or DCSE, then I suggest that you complete the form online and include a print-out of the calculation with a written agreement that is signed and dated by both parents.  However, I do not recommend doing it yourself.

My advice in these cases is for the parents to go to court to get the order.  It is not expensive, and you don’t necessarily need an attorney.  You can also go to the Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement to file the paperwork and you may not need to go to court at all.

As long as both sides to an agreement do what they are supposed to do, there is never a problem.  But if one side does not perform as they agreed, it is much easier to enforce the agreement if there is a court order, or at least some writing as proof of the agreement.

In my experience, there is seldom a writing as a back-up to a verbal agreement to pay child support.  Also, a verbal agreement to pay child support is seldom enforced by the courts because there is just not sufficient evidence to prove that the agreement ever existed.  What usually happens is that the court will order support to be paid from the date of the petition for the court hearing until the child reaches the age of maturity, but there is seldom an award for ‘back’ child support because there really isn’t any provable ‘back’ support due.