Child support is one of the most important pieces of a divorce proceeding in Virginia and elsewhere because it directly pertains to the best interests of the child. In most cases, child support payment schedules will be included in the final divorce decree when sole or majority custody is granted. Essentially, this means that the parent who takes care of the child most or all of the time will be the one to receive payments. In addition, child support payments typically last until the child is no longer considered a minor at the age of 18, provided they have also graduated from high school. Otherwise, child support continues until the month the child graduates.
However, as WiseGeek points out, different states have different laws regarding how child support is handled. Some parents may also need to establish paternity or legal guardianship prior to child support being ordered in cases where parents are separating but were never married. In other cases, changes in income expectations or custody, such as when one parent remarries, may require an amendment to existing child support orders.
It’s important to note that missing child support payments may result in the garnishment of wages or criminal penalties. Fees and interest may also accumulate due to falling behind on payments. If a parent owes back payments, a joint hearing will be held to assess the situation. Failing to attend such a hearing will likely result in a warrant being issued for the parent who owes support. Simply put, aside from amending an existing order, there is no way to avoid ordered payments without incurring some type of penalty.
Because child support can become a complicated legal matter, especially when both parents were never married or the father is disputing paternity, parents may choose to work with family law attorneys. A family law attorney is a legal resource to help navigate the complexities involved in establishing equitable child support payments, and he or she might also assist a parent who seeks to amend an existing child support order if circumstances change.