Effective July 1, 2014 a number of changes were made to the child support statute in Virginia. The three most important changes are (1) the guideline limits on gross income; (2) removal of the $250 requirement for custodial parents, and (3) cessation of secondary employment. I examine each of these changes below.
1. The Guideline Limit on Gross Income
This change by the legislature could be an important change for families with incomes over $10,000 per month. Previously, the guidelines provided specific support payments for households with incomes up, but not beyond, $10,000 per month. The changes now reflect specific child support guidelines for households with incomes up to $35,000 per month. While this may only effect a small portion of the actual population, for those who are effected, it means a Judge has specific guidance in determining child support for high income individuals. Previously, the decision on an appropriate amount of support was left to the discretion of the Judge. With more specific guidelines for higher incomes, there is less of a guessing game when it comes to child support for high income individuals, and should lead to less litigation in what can normally be a highly contested aspect of a child custody and support case.
2. Removal of $250 Requirement
This change to Virginia’s Child Support Statute has a much broader reaching impact. Previously, the custodial parent was responsible for the first $250 in medical and/or dental expenses per child, per calender year before the cost was apportioned based on a percentage of guidelines support. For example, previously in a family with three children the custodial parent could be required to pay $750 in medical expenses before the non-custodial parent had any legal obligation to assist in the cost of expenses. The new law holds that all medical and/or dental expenses are apportioned based on the support guidelines percentages. Therefore, if the non-custodial parent is responsible for 61% of the household income, and the custodial parent 31%, then each is responsible for this share of the medical and/or dental expenses as they are incurred. Medical and/or dental expenses under the statute include but are not be limited to eyeglasses, prescription medication, prosthetics, orthodontics, and mental health or developmental disabilities services, including but not limited to services provided by a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or therapist.
3. Cessation of Secondary Employment
An overlooked addition to the statute is that the code now specifically lays out how a court will deal with “gross income” for a parent who has taken on Secondary Employment to pay off child support arrearages. If the employment was undertaken to pay off the arrearages of a previously child support order, it is not to be considered as gross income for calculating child support, nor can full payment of the arrearages and a subsequent cessation (when you quit the job) of the employment be used as a basis for a material change in circumstances that would allow for re-calculating the guidelines. This is a change that will assist the parents who are actively trying to pay arrearages and provide for their children.
It’s important to hire an attorney who knows the law, the regular updates based on changes by the legislature, and the changing decisions by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Virginia. Remember, you can read any Virginia Statutes on-line here. Consider hiring Brandon C. Waltrip, Esq., of Collins Waltrip, PC for your legal matters, including changes in support based upon changes in the support statute.