Calculating Child Support in Virginia

Each state has its own processes, usually a formula, for calculating child support. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, this formula is governed by Virginia Code § 20-108.2.

The most important components which go into each child support calculation are the monthly gross (not net) income of each party and the number of children for whom support is payable. Gross income includes all sources of income, including for instance disability payments, but not including social welfare benefits (such as federal SSI) or receipt of child support. In Virginia, support is payable for a child until that child turns 18 or, if after turning 18 the child is still in high school and living with (and supported by) the payee parent, until that child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whoever occurs first, per Virginia Code § 20-124.2. Per that same Code section, a Court may also award support for a child beyond the age of 18 or 19 if the child is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled and certain other requirements are met.

Another key component is the parenting time arrangement. In typical sole or primary custody arrangements, child support is calculated using the “sole” guidelines. However, if the non-primary custodian has the children for at least 90 “custodial days” per year, child support is calculated using a separate “shared” guideline. This guideline applies a different formula to the same income numbers based on the number of “custodial days” each parent has in an average year. But be careful: “custodial days” are very specifically defined under the Virginia Code. A “day” is a 24-hour period, but overnights that are not a full 24-hour period can count as one half day. Visitation that is just during the daytime, with no overnights at all, does not count. The shared custody child support guideline adjusts slightly for each additional “day” over 90 that each parent has per year.

The other two elements generally included in a child support guideline calculation are childcare and health insurance coverage costs. Childcare can be attributable to either parent (or both in differing amounts) in a shared custody guideline. Regardless of which guideline is being used, this number may only include childcare which is “work-related,” as in necessary while the respective parent is working. As childcare costs often differ during certain parts of the year, a monthly average of annual childcare costs is often most appropriate. As for health insurance coverage, this includes only the cost to insure the minor child or children, ordinarily the difference between what the parent pays to cover him or herself plus the child(ren), and what the parent would pay to cover only him or herself and not the child(ren).

If one parent is paying child support for other children, not involved in this calculation, by any court order, then that monthly amount is deducted from his or her gross income in this calculation. As a result, parents of minor children with multiple partners often have diminishing child support responsibilities for subsequent children, depending on when child support is first ordered for each child.

The guidelines for child support are not the end of the story, as the Virginia legislature has recognized there are often exceptions to the mathematical rule. Virginia Code § 20-108.1 has a list of potential factors for “deviation” from the guidelines, including the catchall of “such other factors as are necessary to consider the equities for the parents and children.” The most commonly used factor is “imputed income to a party who is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily under-employed,” where a parent asks the Court to use the income the other party should or could be earning, instead of his or her lower, actual income.

Our experienced attorneys can help you estimate your child support guideline calculations, as well as explore all your options in terms of initial child support petitions as well as modifications. Please do not hesitate to reach out for assistance with any of your family law needs. Call us today at 703-570-6392, email Lily Saffer at, or submit an inquiry here on our website. We are here and available to assist you.

Posted in: Family Law