Child support is a very important part of a child’s life. Ideally, in a family setting, both parents provide emotional and financial support for their child. However, parents may split for various reasons, but these obligations towards the child do not go away. To ensure that both parents take active parts in raising their child, several child support laws have been set up.
Child Support Process
Child support in Virginia is provided by the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), under the Department of Social Services (DSS). Parents that want to apply for Child Support Services have to ways in which they can go about their application. The first is to apply online, this is done using the MyChildSupport Customer Service Portal which can be accessed at https://mychildsupport.dss.virginia.gov/McsCaseApplication/ApplyNow. The next option is to download and print out a paper application form which can be filled and submitted in person. This form is available for download at https://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/dcse/forms/application/Child_Support_Enforcement_Services_Application__English.pdf.
The DSCE offers custodial parents various services including the location of the noncustodial parent, establishing paternity, establishing, and modifying child support orders, distributing payments, and enforcing already established child support orders.
During the application process, the parent can specify if they want full child support services or if they only require assistance with collection and enforcement. In filling out the application, the parent will be required to provide name, relationship with the children, residential address, date of birth, etc. There are also fields about the noncustodial parent which should be filled in. These include full name, date of birth, race, gender, phone number, employer details, income and property information, address, etc. The provision of accurate details about the noncustodial parent is important as it can help speed up the child support establishment process. This is because these details can be used to locate the parent, and the case cannot progress until the parent has been located and served a physical notice.
After locating the noncustodial parent, the next step is usually to determine the paternity/legal fatherhood of the child. If a couple has a child while they are married, the husband is legally taken as the father of the child. Unmarried parents can voluntarily establish the paternity of the child by filling an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form. This is often done in the hospital right after the child’s birth, after which the man’s name is added to the birth certificate of the child. Alternatively, it could be filled later on when the child support case is about to be established.
Parents who have disputes on the paternity of a child can opt to take a DNA test through the DCSE. This test will indicate whether or not the alleged father is the child’s biological father. If he is, his name is put on the child’s birth certificate, a legal order is entered, and he becomes responsible for providing medical and financial support to the child. If the man is found to be the father, he will be required to pay for the cost of the DNA tests, however, if he is not the father, then DCSE will pay for the tests.
After establishing the child’s paternity, the child support case can then progress for a hearing to determine the child support obligations of each parent. Child support cases have a fee attached to them. Parents who have never received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) will be charged $25 once $500 has been collected on their case, within a year.
How Do You Receive Child Support?
Parents who receive child support have three options available to them for collecting their child support payments. These are:
Direct Deposit: This is an electronic payment method that allows parents to receive their child support directly into their savings or checking account. For parents to enroll for Direct Deposit, they must fill a Direct Deposit Authorization form. This can be found at the end of the child support application form at https://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/dcse/forms/application/Child_Support_Enforcement_Services_Application__English.pdf.
EPPI Card: This is a debit card that is issued to parents who do not wish to link their bank accounts to the child support case. This is also an electronic payment method and the funds are loaded onto the card once they become available. The EPPI Card can be used to make purchases, withdraw cash, etc. just like a regular debit card.
Check: The final and least safe option is the use of paper checks. The DCSE can mail paper checks to the address of the parent which they can then cash out at a bank. This option carries considerable risk as the checks could get missing or even stolen.
Amount Receivable as Child Support
When it comes to determining how much will be paid as child support, reference is made to the state’s Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines consider the needs of the child, the combined incomes of both parents, the involvement of each parent in raising the child, etc. The aim is to ensure that the children receive the same level of support as they would if their parents were living together. The guidelines can be viewed by visiting https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title20/chapter6/section20-108.2/ and employ complex mathematical calculations to determine monthly child support payments. Some of the information inputted includes daycare expenses, healthcare costs, alimony/spousal support payments among others. For further details on the calculation of child support in Virginia, visit https://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/dcse/obligation_calculation.cgi.
Enforcement of Child Support
Child support is a very important part of giving a child a good life. However, some parents fail to pay child support or make delayed/part payments. For this reason, the DCSE has certain enforcement actions that can be taken to ensure that the money owed is collected. These actions include:
- Withholding support from the wages of the parent
- Issuing liens and orders to withhold money in bank accounts
- Intercepting state and federal tax refunds
- Denying, revoking, restricting, or limiting passports
- Withholding support from unemployment benefits
- Seizing and selling off the parent’s property
- Making credit reports to relevant agencies (which will affect the credit score)
- Suspending or refusing to renew driver’s license
- Requesting an order from the court to take possession of any certificate, registration, or other business, trade, professional, occupational, or recreational license (including hunting and fishing) owned by the parent.
For more information on the enforcement actions, visit https://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/dcse/enforcement_actions.cgi.