Both parents have a legal duty to support their children.
Virginia Child Support
In the past, child support in Virginia was often set on the basis of sworn financial statements, an arrangement that encouraged individuals to inflate their expenses and liabilities and minimize income and assets.
Now, however, statutory child support guidelines have been introduced in Virginia. This change has lent much needed uniformity to child support disputes. Child support payment obligations in Virginia are now set according to a formula which considers each party's gross income for the purpose of determining child support liability.
In Virginia, gross income means income from all sources, and includes:
- Income from salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends, and severance pay
- Pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, and capital gains
- Social security benefits, with certain exceptions
- Workers' compensation benefits
- Unemployment insurance benefits
- Disability insurance benefits
- Veterans' benefits
- Spousal support
- Rental income
- Gifts, prizes or awards
Gross income is subject to deduction of reasonable business expenses for persons with income from self-employment, a partnership, or a closely held business. Courts may also consider certain additional factors and deviate from the Virginia child support guidelines if appropriate. However, in a large majority of cases, child support calculators give accurate estimates.
Maryland also uses a formula for calculating child support based on a proportion of each parent's gross income. Since 1990, Maryland has had child support guidelines in effect. These guidelines are applied unless a party can show that application of the guidelines would be unjust and inappropriate in a particular case.
Child Support Enforcement
After child support is established, a court order goes into effect for the purposes of enforcement. Failing to fulfill the terms of child support is considered contempt of court, and can result in fines or jail time. Any modifications must be made through the courts and cannot be determined solely by either of the parties or by agreement of the parties absent court approval.