Several issues connected to support payments have compelled The Firm For Men to shrug off weariness, fight sleep, and keep working hard for the rights of men in Virginia. One of those issues is child support. The Code of Virginia does not flinch from the harsh reality of unemployment or underemployment. Even a man with no income still owes his ex-wife some child support, every month.
Virginia’s lawmakers carved out laws protecting the Commonwealth’s children in Title 20, Chapter 6, § 20-108.1 and § 20-108.2, in which two key concepts, imputation of income and determination of child support amounts, are spelled out and enumerated.
Imputed income means a calculation, made by the court, of your ability to earn an income. You cannot deliberately be unemployed to avoid child support payments. You cannot deliberately under-employ yourself to avoid child support payments. The court will look you, the Dad and noncustodial parent, over and decide if you are deliberately avoiding work. The court will also decide if you are working too little and could be producing greater income.
Before you get all huffy about the presumption that you would choose to either not work, or work too little, to avoid child support, consider the primary interest of the court: your children, not you. The law is written to protect the best interests of the least capable citizens of our fair state. This has the effect of putting you, the Dad, on the defensive. You have to justify to the court’s satisfaction why you did not take a higher-paying job, or why you are not seeking work if you are unemployed. This is why you need a good attorney at your side when defending, say, your right to pursue a “career” as a poet earning $6,000 a year selling street-corner sonnets.
Virginia’s current and 19th Poet Laureate is Tim Siebles, but even he treats poetry as a side-line, holding down a full-time job as a Professor of English at Old Dominion University.
We don’t personally know Poet Siebles, but we’re fairly sure he recognizes the financial responsibility most adult men feel, a need to be self-sufficient. He has to earn a living, which he does by being a college professor. (To be fair, the job of Poet Laureate is a one-year gig, so few budding poets wait around hoping to “strike it big” with their haiku and triolets.) Divorced men (as noncustodial parents) are usually ordered to assist their children. You may have to give up a few dreams in order to comply with Virginia law and your divorce decree.
Minimum Child Support
Code of Virginia § 20-108.2 enumerates the minimum a Virginia Dad (or any noncustodial parent) must give, based on the number of children he supports. Even with a monthly gross income of $0 (zilch; goose-egg; no bacon; you gettin’ us?) you STILL must pay $68 a month to support one child, up to $169 a month for six kids. Let’s presume you are supporting three children and your ex-wife has physical custody. You earn an astounding $350 a month (yup; around $10 a day). You have to pay your ex-wife $126 — about a third of your income — in child support.
How, you may wonder, does Virginia expect to get juice from a stone, cash from a broke guy, blood from a turnip, or dollars from a Dad? The state does not care about your misery. Holding the best interests of your children (not you) above all else, the state simply does not have a magic wand to make you produce child support money when you have no income. It has a much more practical way.
DCSE Garnishments & Credit Downgrades
Through the Virginia Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), the state will attempt to do two things:
- It will collect as much of the money you owe as it can
- It will keep a running tab on how much in arrears you are
DCSE is legally capable in intercepting tax refunds, garnishing up to 50 percent of your wages, reporting you to credit agencies, and taking other punitive and fiduciary actions. If you are going up against DCSE, you absolutely need a capable family law attorney on your side.
Modification of Support
If your income suddenly changes through no fault of your own, your best recourse is to have your attorney petition the court for a modification of support. Your attorney (who will still expect payment for services rendered) will lay out how your income dropped from, say, several thousand dollars a month to nothing. Petitioning the court, even if your hearing is scheduled for months in the future, sets a start date for the modification. You can, in theory, have a September hearing that retroactively relieves you of some of your child support obligation back to June.
Getting Your Rights Right with The Firm For Men
We at The Firm For Men may not have the poet’s ear, but we know when something just does not sound right. Men’s rights in this state are routinely diminished, often by the men themselves. Instead of pushing back against a court order for a certain dollar amount in child support, some demoralized divorced men just slink away, falling into arrears and tempting DCSE to pursue them.
A better course of action is to engage family law lawyers, such as our group at The Firm For Men, who can examine your issues, identify where a petition could relieve some of your financial burden, and you could still help your children to the maximum extent possible. Contact our child support attorneys by calling (757) 383-9184. Act now and maybe we will read you one of Poet Laureate Tim Siebles’ poems (not really).