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As most parents involved in a child support settlement know, child support determination is controlled by statute in Virginia. On July 1st, the child support laws in Virginia are set to change significantly for the first time in over a decade. These modifications will potentially affect any Virginians who currently pay or receive child support, as well as those who may seek child support after July 1st.

The revisions to the child support statute, Virginia Code Section 20-108.2, include two major changes.  The first major revision involves a new formula to determine the amount of a child support award. The new formula goes up to $35,000 in combined monthly gross income for both parents, rather than the prior ceiling of $10,000. Like the old formula, the new method of calculation will provide simple percentages above the cap. Secondly, new law eliminates the $250 annual obligation upon the custodial parent for the child or children’s unreimbursed medical expenses. This means that in most cases, the parents will now divide all reasonable and necessary medical expenses, unless the parties provide a reason otherwise.

In Virginia, child support agreements may only be altered if there is a “material change in circumstances.” Usually, a material change in circumstance occurs when there are changes to a parent’s income, living situation, custodial time constraints, or other situational factors. However, in addition to external changes, a change in legislation can also constitute a material change and be grounds for modification to an existing child support award. Certain custodial parents with previously determined settlements may now be eligible for modifications to their existing agreements.

The new law takes into account current economic statistics concerning the cost of raising a child. While the previous guidelines included a set minimum monthly figure, the new guidelines remove the minimum number and allow a judge to set a minimum child support figure based on the particular support needs in each situation. This change means that there is now more discretion given to the judge in the determination of child support.

This will be the first time the Child Support Guidelines will be significantly revised since they were created in 1988. Because these changes could substantially affect the amount of child support awards, parents who are currently involved in child support or who plan to seek an award should speak to their attorney to discuss how these changes could affect their situation. If you decide that you would like to file to amend your current child support order in part based on the new guidelines, your attorney can help you achieve the best possible outcome. Because the new guidelines will give the judge more discretion in determining child support payments, your attorney can be a crucial liaison to help articulate your needs to the court.