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Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support

Who is entitled to child support? 
How is the amount of child support calculated?  
I Want to Hire An Attorney to Help Me Enforce Child Support, But I Don't Have the Money. What Do I Do? 
How Long Do I Have to Enforce the Child Support Order? How long may I receive child support?  
Can I Collect Interest on Unpaid Support?
Is There Anything I Can Do to Enforce My Child Support If My Former Spouse Moves Out of State?  
My Ex-spouse Is Going Bankrupt and Owes Me $5,000 in Back Support. Am I Out of Luck?  
My Former Spouse Has Stopped Paying Support? I Don't Want to Hurt His Feelings By Going to Court.  Am I Making a Mistake?
How Long Does It Usually Take to Enforce an Order of Support From a Nonpaying Parent?
How can the amount of child support be modified?
If I remarry, must I still pay child support? If I remarry, may I still receive child support?
In a joint custody situation, may either parent receive child support?
Can the court order health insurance coverage?
Do I Have to pay child support to my first family?
The other parent is in jail. Can I get support?


Q. Who is entitled to child support? 

A. A parent who is living with the children but apart from the other parent is entitled to child support from the non-custodial parent for the children. 

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Q. How is the amount of child support calculated? 

A. The Commonwealth of Virginia has adopted Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are used by the courts to determine how much child support the non-custodial parent should pay to the parent who has sole custody and also how much child support should be paid in a joint custody agreement.  

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Q. I Want to Hire An Attorney to Help Me Enforce Child Support, But I Don't Have the Money. What Do I Do?  

A. Many states now require a court to order the nonpaying parent to pay the attorneys fees and costs incurred in child support enforcement actions. Thus, ask the attorney you plan to hire whether he or she will defer the fee and obtain it from the nonpaying parent. Some attorneys will do this or permit you to make monthly payments while pursuing the nonpaying parent. Others will require up-front payment in full and will reimburse you if the fees are subsequently paid by the nonpaying parent pursuant to court order.  

If you are representing yourself, you can apply to the child support enforcement agency in your county for assistance in establishing and collecting child support. By applying for assistance and paying a $20.00 fee the child support agency will represent you as the custodial parent in a child support proceeding, irrespective of your income.  

Virginia law recognizes mandatory income withholding in every child support and alimony order. The law's procedures are triggered by non-payments amounting to more than thirty (30) days of support. The law provides that the supporting parent's employer can withhold from his or her paycheck a court-ordered amount and forward it to the support recipient. 

The law is intended to assist an individual, who wishes to pursue support enforcement as a pro se litigant (representing yourself), or with the assistance of the Child Support Enforcement Administration. As soon as payments are in arrears for 30 days, the recipient can file in court for the withholding of the other parent's wages.  

A person who refused to pay child support, after being ordered by a court, also is liable to be held in contempt and could have bank accounts attached, income tax refunds withheld, and lose there driver's license.  

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Q. How Long Do I Have to Enforce the Child Support Order? How long may I receive child support?  

A. There is no statute of limitations on collection of past due support in Virginia. Parents are obligated to pay child support until a child reaches the age of 19 or graduates from high school, whichever comes first. Support terminates when the child turns 18 if the child is not in high school.  In some circumstances, a parent may be obligated to support a disabled adult child. 

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Q. Can I Collect Interest on Unpaid Support?  

A. Yes, at the legal rate set by the state.  The present rate in Virginia is 9%.

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Q.  Is There Anything I Can Do to Enforce My Child Support If My Former Spouse Moves Out of State?  

A. In addition to the remedies mentioned above, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act  will allow you to  register the child support order with the court in the state where the child support payor lives and then apply directly to that state for enforcement of the order. 

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Q. My Ex-spouse Is Going Bankrupt and Owes Me $5,000 in Back Support. Am I Out of Luck?  

A. For the time being maybe, but not for the long run. Child support orders are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. (In fact, if your ex gets out from under the crush of debts, he or she may be more likely to pay you. At the very least, you won't be competing with a hoard of other creditors for the few dollars that may be available.) 

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Q. My Former Spouse Has Stopped Paying Support.  I Don't Want to Hurt His Feelings By Going to Court.  Am I Making a Mistake?  

A. Enforcement of child support orders are best done early rather than late. If there is good cause to reduce payments, an agreement can be made. However, if the parent is merely making excuses, taking immediate and tough action to enforce the court order will be most likely to convince the nonpaying parent that failure to pay will have serious consequences. Moreover, if the amount owed (arrears ) gets too high, the nonpaying parent may never have the ability to pay it all back. 

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Q. How Long Does It Usually Take to Enforce an Order of Support From a Nonpaying Parent? 
 
A. Parents who refuse to pay child support are merely the tip of the iceberg of a growing problem in the United States of family discord and breakdown. It can take from 60 days to one year to enforce a court order for support, depending on whether the spouse can be located.  

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Q. How can the amount of child support be modified? 

A. If there is a change in circumstances amounting to an increase or decrease in a parent's income, or in the expense of raising the children, the court may modify the child support obligation. Virginia law does not define a change in material circumstances.

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Q.  If I remarry, must I still pay child support? If I remarry, may I still receive child support? 

A. If a parent remarries, and even if that parent has more children, he or she still pay must pay child support to the children of the first marriage. If a person is receiving child support and remarries, he or she is still entitled to receive child support unless his or her new spouse adopts the child. 

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Q. In a joint custody situation, may either parent still receive child support? 

A. Yes. The amount of child support will depend upon the amount of time each parent spends with the child as well as the parents' incomes and the expense of raising the child. 

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Q. Can the court order health insurance coverage? 

A. The court has the authority to require either parent to name a child in the parent's health insurance coverage if the parent can obtain heath insurance coverage through an employer or any form of group health insurance, and the child can be included at a reasonable cost to the parent in that health insurance coverage.  

An order requiring health insurance coverage for a child may be issued on a separate from or in conjunction with an earnings withholding order. 

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Q.  Do I Have to pay child support to my the children of my prior marriage? 

A: Even though the other parent has a second family, it does not mean that his or her responsibility to the first family goes away. However, the amount of the support order can be affected because he/she has the responsibility for supporting another child(ren). You must file a request to change your child support and notify the other party before you will be given an opportunity to provide additional information. Only then may your support be changed. Generally, under the law the answer is NO. Your child support is currently only affected by previous
orders of child support, not additional children. 

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Q. The other parent is in jail. Can I get support? 

A: Unless he/she has assets, like property or income from an outside source or from a work- release program, it is unlikely that support can be collected until he/she gets out of jail and receives income or acquires property.  

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