During and after divorce, one of the most common concerns that West Virginia parents have is how child support will be determined and set forth in the final decree and parenting plan. Often, parents are concerned that child support will be unfair or unenforceable. Fortunately, West Virginia has laws and guidelines in place to help prevent unfair child support orders, and also to ensure that child support orders are followed.
West Virginia’s Child Support Guidelines
Read on to learn about the basic child support guidelines in West Virginia, as well as how these guidelines commonly affect couples seeking divorce, or who are already divorced.
Both Parents are Responsible – It is a common misconception that after divorce, only one parent is responsible for the physical and financial well-being of the child or children. In West Virginia, it is assumed that both parents will continue to care for children of the marriage. Child support guidelines are established to help ensure that child support orders are fair to each parent.
Determining Child Support Amounts – Child support will be determined after the court factors in the income of each parent, as well as the number of children to be supported. These guidelines are the same for parents who are married or unmarried, until the time that the child reaches 18 years of age, graduates from high school, or in the event of a physical or mental disability.
Child Support does not Equal Only Support – Child support guidelines establish a base figure that is a percentage of the total income of the couple. Depending on the amount of each party’s individual income, that percentage will then be divided into two parts, though they likely will not be equal. In most cases, the parent who makes more income will pay a higher percentage of child support than the other parent. That does not mean that the parent with more income will pay the full child support amount to the other parent, but that he or she will pay the higher of the two percentages of the child support order. For example, if child support guidelines establish $400 for child support, then that is the amount that will be divided into two parts based on the parental income. Therefore, one parent may be ordered to cover 60 percent, while the other is ordered to cover 40. In such cases, the parent who has primary physical custody will receive a monthly payment of $160 from the other parent, and will be expected to cover the remaining $240.
Modification – Another common misconception is that once child support is ordered, it cannot be modified to match changing life circumstances. West Virginia child support guidelines allows parents the ability to file a petition of modification if it is proven that either parent’s situation has changed, or the needs of the child has changed. In order to determine if modification will be allowed, the court will consider any special needs, additional educational or medical expenses, long-distance cost of visitation, additional child support orders, and whether the modification will result in either parent falling below the poverty line.
Enforcement – Enforcement of child support orders is taken seriously in West Virginia. The Bureau of Child Support Enforcement is the governing agency that ensures that child support orders are maintained. It is important that any parent paying or receiving child support maintain clear records and document any changes in personal circumstances.