If you currently pay or receive child support, you may be affected by the changes to the guidelines that took effect yesterday, July 1, 2014.
- The dollar amounts of support obligations for monthly income levels up to $35,000.00 will change. Depending on your combined monthly income and number of children, your support obligation could increase or decrease if applied under the new guidelines. If your monthly income is above $35,000.00, then your support obligation will be determined by a percentage of your income instead of by a specific dollar amount provided by the statute. The old guidelines applied percentages beginning at monthly incomes of $10,000.00.
- The statutory minimum is no longer $65.00 regardless of the number of children you have. Rather, the statutory minimum increases with the number of children. However, if you earn equal to or less than 150% below the federal poverty level, then your statutory minimum may be reduced at the court’s discretion upon hearing additional evidence on your ability to pay and your children’s needs.
- Both the custodial and non-custodial parent must share a child’s reasonable and necessary unreimbursed medical expenses proportionally to their gross incomes. Prior to this change, proportional responsibility between parents only applied to medical expenses exceeding $250.00.
Possible Effect of the Change in Support Guidelines on your Child Support Obligation:
Typically, in order to adjust your monthly child support obligation, you must prove to the court that you have had a material change of circumstances. A change in the support guidelines however, can act as an exception to the material change of circumstances rule if your monthly support obligation under the new scheme would vary significantly with your existing support obligation. You should speak to a lawyer to determine if your support obligation varies significantly under the new scheme because it will be dependent upon your specific situation.
If you currently have a pendente lite order (a temporary order while there is pending litigation), you will be unable to use the change in the guidelines as a reason to change your support obligation before a final child support order has been entered. Additionally, if your support obligation is adjusted as a result of the change in the support guidelines, you will not be able to apply the change to any prior payments made before the updated support guidelines were put into effect.
Hypotheticals Applying the Change in the Support Guidelines:
If a parent with one child earns minimum wage and works 40 hours per week, her monthly income would be approximately $1,250.00. If this parent had physical custody of the child less than 90 days per year, then under the pre-July 1, 2014 guidelines, this parent’s support obligation would be $232.00 per month. Under the post-July 1, 2014 guidelines, the obligation would be $228.00 per month, resulting in a decrease of $48.00 per year in obligations.
If a parent with one child has physical custody of the child for less than 90 days per year, and earns $30,000.00 per year, her monthly income would be $2,500.00 per month. Under the pre-July 1, 2014 guidelines, this parent’s support obligation would be $394.00 per month whereas under the post-July 1, 2014 guidelines, the obligation would be $423.00 per month. This parent would experience an increase of $348.00 per year in obligations.
Note: These are generalized hypothetical situations that are not intended to reflect your specific situation. Please see a lawyer for advice on whether your monthly support obligation could be adjusted as a result of the change in Va. Code § 20-108.2.
About the Author
Ashley Hart is a third year law student at Washington and Lee University. She was a 2014 Summer Associate at OPN Law and currently serves as the Executive Editor of the Journal of Energy, Climate, and the Environment at Washington and Lee. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia in 2012.