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What to know about child support in Virginia

An estimated 40 percent of children are born to unwed mothers. Furthermore, a quarter of all children under the age of 18 are raised by their mother alone. Therefore, child support payments can be a critical source of income to stay financially stable while raising a child. To obtain child support, a mother must first establish that a man is the legal father of the child.

Once paternity has been established, the father has an obligation to make support payments. Establishing paternity may also make a child eligible for Social Security death benefits and an inheritance if the father passes away. It is important to note that both parents are obligated to support the child regardless of who the child lives with. Therefore, non-custodial mothers may be ordered to pay support as well.

Parents may be able to change the amount of support they provide if their income changes. However, a current order stays in effect until a modification is requested. Therefore, parents should ask to reduce payments immediately after suffering an unexpected job loss or a loss of income for any other reason, such as a medical emergency. It is important to note, however, that when a modification is granted it is prospective only and has no effect on any amounts that may be in arrears.

Child support is an important method of making sure that a child's best interests are being met. Support payments may be ordered by a court based upon state guidelines or could be negotiated by the parties' respective family law attorneys as part of a comprehensive parenting plan.

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