You can be forgiven for thinking lawyers could write a 180-page handbook for using shampoo. Legal “briefs” tend to be anything but brief, and legal pads are deliberately three inches longer than regular pads because, well, words, words, words. So, when you examine a Virginia court’s child support order, you may be surprised at how much is left out, considering all that is tucked in.

Child Support Orders in Virginia

A child support order issued by a Virginia court will identify a lot of responsibilities to both parents. The Commonwealth recognizes that a) children are expensive and b) those expenses do not disappear after divorce, determination of paternity, or some other family-changing event.

Child support guidelines are dictated by Code of Virginia § 20-108.2 and are based in reality: the incomes of both parents. While the custodial parent is assumed to bear the brunt of child support expenses, the non-custodial parent (often, but not always, the Dad) has a portion to pay, too, based on income.

According to the website Department of Numbers, Virginia’s median household income in 2016 was $68,114, which is a monthly gross income of $5,676. The guidelines from the state show that one child requires $800 a month in child support. Your portion of that could be very large, since the court assumes the children’s mother is providing significant “intangible” care.

The state also recognizes that, upon separation or if you two were never married in the first place, your two new, individual household incomes are not likely to rise to the state median overnight. Expect to see your monthly income available for family expenses drop significantly, since your income and hers are now creating two separate households.

Orders are Orders

What may not be stated in the child support order is detailed information about medical, dental, and optical expenses. You may find some vague, lawyerly wording about “in accordance with § 20-108.2 (D).”

This wording is, from the state’s viewpoint, so fundamental that an explicit restatement in the order is not necessary. The state already covered that ground in the law itself. The passage is (surprise!) a bit wordy, but important:

Except for good cause shown or the agreement of the parties, in addition to any other child support obligations established pursuant to this section, any child support order shall provide that the parents pay in proportion to their gross incomes, as used for calculating the monthly support obligation, any reasonable and necessary unreimbursed medical or dental expenses. The method of payment of those expenses shall be contained in the support order. Each parent shall pay his respective share of expenses as those expenses are incurred. Any amount paid under this subsection shall not be adjusted by, nor added to, the child support calculated in accordance with subsection G …

We know; you need to have a nap after working your way through that. But stick with us. More helpful information is on the way!

What are Considered Medical & Dental Expenses?

The law tries in its legislatively meandering way to make clear what is a medical or dental expense:

For the purposes of this section, medical or dental expenses shall include but not be limited to eyeglasses, prescription medication, prosthetics, orthodontics, and mental health or developmental disabilities services, including but not limited to services provided by a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or therapist.

Just about every situation your growing child runs into (braces; glasses; contact lenses; Vitamin D prescriptions; wisdom teeth extraction; physical, occupational or psychological therapy; emergency room visits not covered by insurance) must be split between you and the children’s mother.

Note that the payment must be made as the expenses are incurred. You cannot tell the kids’ mom that you “owe” her for the dental examination. You cannot promise to pay the pediatrician for your share of the well visit. You pay as they go.

Let’s Go Halfsies

Be mindful that the law is constructed not to make each parent pay half, but to pay in proportion to gross income. Say you now make $5,000 above half the state median and the children’s mother makes $5,000 less than half the state median:

  • You: $39,057
  • Her: $29,057

Together, you make Virginia’s median household income, but you are now two households. You both will probably struggle to make ends meet, but since you make $10,000 more than she does, you will bear more of the brunt of medical expenses.

We can use braces as an example. Colgate (yes, the toothpaste people) says kids’ braces cost $3,000 to $7,000. Let’s hope your Little Sally-Sue needs the $3,000 kind. Your share is not $1,500, but $1,719 (57 percent of the total cost).

All your children’s medical expenses will fall out along those lines, since your income represents not 50 percent of the total available for child support, but 57 percent.

A quick call to The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or an online contact, can help you sort out child support, medical payments, and more. Please let us help you so you meet your obligations to your children while maintaining your rights as a Virginia man.