Child support payments in Virginia are neither reward nor punishment. They are intended to keep children happily living the lives they came to expect before Mom and Dad went their separate ways. If both parents want to put a halt to child support, is Virginia okay with that?
Okay, Why Child Support?
Virginia requires child support payments so that Virginia’s vulnerable population of children, 0 to 18 years, does not suffer from neglect.
Child support is paid by the higher-income, usually noncustodial, parent to the custodial parent to cover expenses of raising children:
- Mortgage or rent payments (shelter)
- Clothing and shoes
- Food and drink
- Toys, games, recreation, camp, and extracurricular activities
- Warmth, security, and gifts
- School supplies
What happens if both parents suddenly find themselves so well off economically that child support is unnecessary?
Uh, Okay, No!
The Commonwealth of Virginia is not okay with a spontaneous or ill-conceived halt to child support if the child support was part of a court order. Defying a court order, even if such defiance was mutually agreed upon by the two adult parties, is contempt of court.
In Virginia, contempt of court is a serious offense. Under Code of Virginia § 16.1-292, a person found violating an order from Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court faces a $250 fine and 10-day jail sentence. In Virginia Code § 20-124.2, the court’s power to punish wayward parents is plainly spelled out:
- The court shall have the continuing authority and jurisdiction to make any additional orders necessary to effectuate and enforce any order entered pursuant to this section or § 20-103 including the authority to punish as contempt of court any willful failure of a party to comply with the provisions of the order.
If the child support arrangements for two separated or divorced parents emerged from a court decree either in Virginia Circuit Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, do not veer from the arrangements.
Okay, Sure, Yes!
Two loving, caring parents can work with their attorneys to agree on child support, visitation schedules, and custody before such arrangements reach a Virginia court. The agreement can be approved by a Virginia judge.
As long as the child support payment schedule and amounts do not deviate from Code of Virginia § 20-108.2 (you cannot pay less than the guidelines, but you can pay your children more), a judge is likely to approve your plans.
Assuming Virginia’s Department of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) is not involved in your child support case, an agreement between the two parents will almost always be honored by the court.
Okay, But You Said
While the custodial parent — let’s assume for argument that it is the children’s mother — could be cool with no income for the kiddies, and while she may promise not to say anything, just agreeing out loud to end payments is a dangerous idea.
Without a written agreement to stop child support, Mom could turn around five months later and make a claim against Dad for not paying child support. Where is proof that you mutually agreed to end support? Now Dad not only faces contempt charges, he is in arrears for months of payments.
Rather than work from an oral agreement to stop child support payments, both parents should ask their attorneys to petition the court for a modification of child support based on material changes to both parents’ lives.
Best Interests of the Child
The legal concept of “best interests of the child” is so ingrained in Virginia Code as to almost be a mantra. It is certainly what every judge uses as a yardstick when ruling on petitions affecting children.
No Virginia judge will agree to stop child support payments if the children’s guardian ad litem or other friends of the court showed such payments are vital for the children’s wellbeing.
Financial records could support the parents’ motion to stop payments, as would, say, a video clip of the custodial parent winning the Mega Millions lottery.
Game Plan with The Firm For Men
If you and the child’s mother are determined to end child support payments, each of you should approach your family law attorneys to draft a motion to end them.
Sufficient income, favorable living conditions of the children, and parental agreement all become evidence that child support can stop without harm to the kids.
Done right, the strong relationships between Dad and kids, Mom and Kids, and Mom and Dad (as supportive, separated parents) can continue. And Virginia’s courts will likely be okay with it.
To make changes to child support, parenting time schedules, or child custody, contact us at The Firm For Men. You may also telephone our office at (757) 383-9184. We can help Virginia’s men save money, improve their family relationships, and preserve their rights.