Men of a certain age—or their sons—know Jackson Browne. Songwriter, performer, Browne has sold more than 18 million albums. He is, for us, a triple threat in the best possible way: he wrote one of our favorite songs (“Lawyers in Love”1), he has been divorced, and he’s a guy. He also wrote the anthem for divorced Dads seeking modifications in child support: Runnin’ on Empty2.
The Pretender: You Can’t Fake Broke
Jackson Browne’s 1976 song, The Pretender3, is directed at you if you think, somehow, you are going to fool the state of Virginia into thinking you are broke when you’re really not. The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) has an entire department (Division of Child Support Enforcement, or DCSE) dedicated to getting money from parents who owe it, to turn over to parents who need it to raise their children.
Somebody’s Baby: Taking Care of Your Own
Though Somebody’s Baby is the title for Jackson Browne’s 2008 hit4, it also is a reminder that the child support you pay goes to help raise your baby (or older child). Before you decide that the payments are too large a burden, remember the money is meant to help your own offspring. Also, you will get nowhere arguing about how your ex-wife is spending the money, since Virginia law makes the assumption that the custodial parent is spending appropriately to support the child.
Yet you may have legitimate reasons to feel the money you send every month is too much. Possible reasons for a need to change child support payments:
- You changed jobs and make 25 percent less money than when the order was originally entered
- Three years or more have passed since the last child support order was entered, modified or reviewed
- A child has aged beyond the order or been emancipated
- You, as a Reservist or National Guard member, have endured a pay decrease due to being called up for active duty
- Health care coverage insurance premium increases (or decreases) by at least 25 percent
- Work-related child care expenses increase (or decrease) by at least 25 percent
You and your lawyer can work with the DCSE to complete the Request for Review and Adjustment and provide pay stubs to support your claims. The most common reason for requesting lower child support payments is an involuntary drop in income.
Red Neck Friend: You Can’t Pull One Over On DCSE, Slick
Suppose, like Jackson Browne in 19735, you have this redneck friend who “advises” you on slick legal moves, like quitting a job or getting yourself incarcerated to avoid child support. In Virginia, voluntary unemployment is not grounds for relief of your duty to pay child support.
Whether in jail or out of work, whether you are earning any money or not, you still owe your children the financial support decreed in the original court order.
Here Come Those Tears Again: Write It and Weep
Jackson Browne penned the song6 in 1976, but the words apply to Dads who write out those monthly child support checks whose amounts come directly from Virginia law.
The Code of Virginia has an exhaustive scale to cover monthly earnings and child support payments from $0 up beyond $35,000 for from one to six kids. Notice the scale starts at $0 monthly earnings, and at that level, Virginia expects you to pay your custodial ex-spouse or ex-girlfriend $68 for one child and $169 for six.
Nobody really explains how, with no perceivable income, you are going to pay that. But you will at least owe it, to be paid when you finally start earning. (If you are making $35,000 a month, you have very little reason to ask for reductions in child support payments, by the way.)
Call It a Loan: Paying Less Child Support Without an Appeal
Let’s say you earned $2,000 a month at the time of your divorce and are paying for two children. For months you steadily paid the mandated $527. Suddenly your boss informs you she has to cut your hours for three months. You simply cannot pay it, and you ask your ex-wife if you can send $263.50 (half) for a few months while you struggle to get by. She says, by phone, “Okay,” and you send the smaller amount.
Like the 1980 Jackson Browne hit7, you and she have to call it a loan—she is lending you the money you are not paying her. She is still owed the difference, and if she takes you to court, her voiced approval of the reduced amount is not going to mean anything. Better to have your lawyer put in an appeal with DCSE based on your income dropping by 25 percent or more.
We’re Lawyers in Love
We at The Firm for Men are in love…with the law. We stand by the men we represent, helping them after divorce to get fairness and justice. If you need to reduce your child support payments, call our Virginia Beach office at 757-383-9184 to schedule a consultation with our attorneys.