The relationship between the parents of a child may end for various reasons. They may be separated or divorced, however, their obligation to the child remains. Both parents are expected to provide financial support in the child’s upbringing. For this reason, child support laws exist to ensure that the financial obligation involved in raising a child is shared by both parents in a manner similar to how it would be if they were together as a family.
Child Support Process
The child support program in West Virginia is administered by the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement (BCSE), which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Applications are available to custodial parents who require child support from their noncustodial counterparts and the Child Support services are rendered without a fee requirement. The application can be completed online at https://www.wvpath.org/, or a form can be downloaded for printing from https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcse/application/Documents/AFS_5-1-2018.pdf. Parents who wish to use the online application platform must have a valid email address. The services offered by the BCSE include:
- Locating the parent: Using the information provided during the application process, the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement can help locate the noncustodial parent. This is an important part of establishing a child support order as the child support case cannot progress if the noncustodial parent has not been located and served notice. Some of the relevant details provided in the application which could be of help in locating the parent are full name, address, Social Security Number, phone number, etc. If the parent cannot be located at the last known address and other efforts to establish contact prove abortive, the Bureau also has access to locator services. The information of the parent can be looked up in Federal and State databases to help in the location process.
- Legally establishing paternity: Establishing paternity is the legal determination of the father of a child. There is a need to establish paternity if the child has been conceived or born out of wedlock, or if the child was born 10 months after a divorce or separation. It is possible to go through this process as long as the child is not yet up to 18 years old. Paternity could be established through voluntary acknowledgment. In this case, both parents fill a Declaration of Paternity Affidavit admitting that the child is theirs. This form can be picked up at any of the BCSE offices, a directory of office addresses is available at https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcse/Pages/Find-Local-Office.aspx. Paternity could also be established by genetic testing. This applies if there is doubt as to the biological father of the child. For genetic testing, samples are taken from the mother, alleged father, and the child for DNA analysis. If the tests show a 98% or greater probability of fatherhood, a court order is entered, naming the man as the child’s father. Once paternity has been established, the name of the father can be added to the birth certificate of the child.
- Establishing child support: This is done once the paternity of the child has been established. It involves consideration of various factors to determine an appropriate amount to be paid as support.
The BCSE also helps collect support payments, enforce support orders, and review/modify orders. For more details, visit https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcse/application/Pages/default.aspx.
How Do You Receive Child Support Payments?
Parents receiving child support in West Virginia have two options to receive their payments.
BCSE smiONE Debit Card: This is a Visa debit card on which the BCSE loads child support payments. The payment is automatic, and funds are usually available within two days of receipt at the BCSE. The card provides easy, safe, and quick access to payments, as well as the flexibility of use. This card can be used to make withdrawals or purchases at all locations that accept a Visa card. Card activity can also be tracked online at https://www.smionecard.com/. It is important to note that this is a debit card, so it cannot be used to make purchases greater than the available balance. The smiONE card has certain fees associated with it, to view the fee schedule, visit https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcse/Documents/WV%20Fee%20Schedule%20SMIONE.pdf.
Direct Deposit: This is an option that allows parents to receive their child support payments directly into an authorized bank account via electronic funds transfer. To apply for direct deposit, parents need to fill a Direct Deposit Authorization form. This can be found at https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcse/parents/Documents/direct%20deposit%20form%203-21.pdf. It usually takes about 20 days to process and the BCSE notifies parents once Direct Deposit commences on their case.
Maximum Amount Receivable as Child Support
Child support payments in West Virginia are calculated using the Income Shares Support Formula. This considers different factors like the gross income of both parents, the number of children, the time spent with each parent (in cases with shared custody), other family obligations of the parents, etc. The parents are required to supply this information about themselves by filling certain forms and submitting them to the BCSE. If the forms are not submitted, a determination can be made based on other sources. The West Virginia code specifying the guidelines for child support payments can be accessed at http://www.wvlegislature.gov/WVCODE/Code.cfm?chap=48&art=13#13. Parents can also estimate what they can expect to receive using the online calculator available at https://www.alllaw.com/calculators/childsupport/west_virginia.
Enforcement of Child Support
Not all parents meet up to their child support obligations. Some parents delay paying the support, others pay only a part of the ordered amount, and some do not even comply with the order at all. In West Virginia, the Bureau of Child Support Enforcement can take several actions against parents who default on their child support payments. These actions are aimed at enforcing compliance and collecting the funds for disbursement in the child support case. They include income withholding, seizing assets belonging to the defaulting parent, placing liens on property, denying passport applications, revoking and suspending licenses, intercepting tax refunds, etc. Income withholding is usually established along with the child support order and involves making automatic deductions from the wages of the parent before it is paid out to the parent.