Virginia offers separating and divorcing parents several options with child custody. The law reads, “The court shall consider and may award joint legal, joint physical, or sole custody, and there shall be no presumption in favor of any form of custody.” One option is 50/50 physical custody, under which both parents enjoy their children half the time. But child custody is only peripherally connected to child support.
Child Custody in Virginia
Under Virginia Code § 20-124.2, Circuit Court judges can determine both legal and physical custody in the best interests of your children. Options include:
- Sole legal custody
- Joint legal custody
- Sole physical custody
- Joint physical custody
The issue of child custody is determined by many factors, but paramount is protecting and nurturing the child. One parent may be a better emotional and logistical “fit” than the other.
Often when couples separate and divorce, the marital home itself remains. Children accustomed to attending a particular school in a particular neighborhood are not uprooted. Many judges place a huge premium on avoiding disruptions to the children’s lives.
The parent continuing to occupy the marital home may end up with, for example, sole physical custody but shared legal custody. Or, just as frequently, in fulfilling this particular passage from the law, judges may opt for 50/50 physical and legal custody:
- The court shall assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and encourage parents to share in the responsibilities of rearing their children. As between the parents, there shall be no presumption or inference of law in favor of either. The court shall give due regard to the primacy of the parent-child relationship but may upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence that the best interest of the child would be served thereby award custody or visitation to any other person with a legitimate interest.
Custody, though, is not child support. The two are different topics, and are treated differently by the judge.
Child support guidelines in Virginia are laid out in painstaking (excruciating!) detail in Virginia Code § 20-108.2, with basic child support obligations for one child up to six children, with monthly incomes ranging from $0 to $35,000.
The legislators failed to include one free abacus to every citizen with their spanking fresh law. That’s too bad, really, because when you get into the weeds you need either a calculator or an abacus or a brainy undergrad to navigate:
- Shared custody support.
(a) Where a party has custody or visitation of a child or children for more than 90 days of the year, as such days are defined in subdivision G 3 (c), a shared custody child support amount based on the ratio in which the parents share the custody and visitation of any child or children shall be calculated in accordance with this subdivision. The presumptive support to be paid shall be the shared custody support amount, unless a party affirmatively shows that the sole custody support amount calculated as provided in subdivision G 1 is less than the shared custody support amount. If so, the lesser amount shall be the support to be paid.
At the very least, you need an experienced family law attorney to walk you through that. The legislators wrote that spaghetti bowl of words to ensure Virginia’s children continue to live in the way they lived when their parents were together.
In a Nutshell
Suppose you brought home $4,000 a month and your ex-spouse brought home $1,000 a month from her part-time job. Together you had $5,000 to apply toward your kids, mortgage, and living expenses. Nutkin and Twinkleberry, your adorable (!) kids cost the two of you $1,500 a month.
During your marriage, you two probably never looked at the pile of money and apportioned it to each earner. But in divorce, that is exactly what the court w+ill do. Your ex would be close to penniless if she had to shell out $750 a month in child support payments. You could easily afford that amount, and more:
- Your share of the combined gross income is $4,000/$5,000, or 80 percent
- Your ex’s share of combined gross income is $1,000/$5,000, or 20 percent
- You should pay $1,500 x 80 percent of the children’s child support payments, or $1,200
- Your ex should pay $1,500 x 20 percent, or $300
At least theoretically, you could be on the hook to send her a check for $1,200 and hope that she puts out at least $300 of her own monthly cash toward Nutkin’s and Twinkleberry’s care and feeding.
Yet your attorney can also argue that, with 50/50 custody, you will incur plenty of expenses with the children at your home. The argument can reduce your child support payment, but not eliminate it completely.
Here’s our nutshell take: child support nearly always requires one parent to pay the other parent, regardless of child custody.
Got questions about child support, child custody, or childish behavior? Contact us today at The Firm For Men, or telephone us at (757) 383-9184. We protect the rights of Virginia’s men in all aspects of family law.