How to Modify Child Support in Virginia if Only One Child Reaches the Age of 18

If you have multiple children and have a child support order, you will need to modify your child support for each child as he/she reaches the age of 18.

How is Child Support in Virginia Calculated?

Child support in Virginia is calculated and entered by the Court in a lump sum for all children. Under Virginia law, child support must be paid until the child reaches the age of 18, graduates from high school, or reaches the age of 19 if still attending high school.

Once your child has reached this landmark, it is up to you to ask the Court for a modification of support due to the material change in circumstances of having one child reach the age of maturity. The Court will not, on its own, reduce the amount of support. Nor, can you reduce the amount of support without an Order of the Court. If you do reduce your support, without a Court Order, the Court can hold you in contempt for not complying with a Court Order.

Additionally, you cannot assume that the amount of child support will be reduced proportionally by the number of children reaching 18. For example, if you have two children and one turns 18 and has graduated from high school, your support will not be reduced by half. Your support amount for the one child remaining will be recalculated using the parties’ current income amounts for one child.

Modification of Child Support

So, if you have a child approaching age 18 and graduation from high school, what should you do? It takes several months to get a support hearing added to the Court’s docket, so start thinking and planning ahead. You cannot file for the modification of child support until there is a material change in circumstances. Graduation from high school or turning 18, whichever is second, is a material change in circumstances. Talk to your lawyer ahead of time so that a Petition for Modification of Child Support can be filed immediately once the change occurs.

The reason for filing immediately is that in Virginia child support cannot be changed retroactively. Which means that if your child turns 18 in May and graduates from high school in June, child support does not automatically change in June. If you don’t file for the modification of child support until September, then the Court can only order the change in support retroactive to September, the date of filing, not the date the change occurred. The amount you paid in June, July, and August is gone, can’t do anything about it. If you file immediately, then the Court, no matter when they hear the Petition, can order the change in support to be retroactive to the date of filing. If the support amount is decreased, the Court will then order the person receiving support to pay back any overage you have paid since the date of filing.

Do not reduce your payments until the Court states you can reduce payments. If you do, you are in violation of a Court Order and can be held in contempt. Child support is usually something that cannot be agreed to verbally. Even if the person receiving support agrees verbally to a reduction, that verbal agreement probably won’t hold up in Court. The Court will hold you liable to the amount the Court ordered in its last Order until a new Court Order is signed by the Judge. If you and the person receiving support agree to a new number without an attorney, put that in writing and submit to the Court to be entered.

Modification of Child Support Amount is not Proportional

If you are the person receiving support, do not agree to any reduction in modification of child support due to a child reaching maturity until you consult with any attorney. Again, the change in support amount is not proportional to the number of children receiving support. A new support calculation needs to be calculated with your current income and the support payer’s current income. Additionally, wait until the person paying support files with the Court for a Modification of Support. The amount ordered by the Court is what the payer has to pay until a new child support Order is entered.

Petitioning the Court for a Rule to Show Cause

If the support payer has unilaterally decided to pay you less due to one child reaching maturity, and no new child support Order has been entered, you have the right to file for a Rule to Show Cause against the payer in the Court. This is where the payer must come to Court and explain why he/she has reduced child support payments. The Court will not accept the payer’s argument that one child reached maturity, and therefore, the payer decided to pay less. At that point, the Court can hold the payer in contempt of Court and will Order the payer to pay back due child support. Additionally, by taking the payer to Court on a Show Cause, you will not change the amount of support owed to you. That can only be done by a Petition for Modification.

There is no harm to you, as the payee, by enforcing the Court’s Order. You, as the child support receiver, has the right to collect full child support payments until a new child support Order is entered by the Court.

Virginia Divorce Attorneys

Contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office with one of our Virginia divorce attorneys. We can walk you through the steps to get your child support up to date or pursue a support payer who is not following the Court’s Child Support Order.

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