Parents have the responsibility to financially support their children, whether the parents are married or not. When parents divorce in West Virginia, the court issues a child support order to ensure the child receives adequate support even though he is living with only one parent at a time. To calculate the amount of support, courts use guidelines set out in West Virginia’s child support laws.
Calculating Child Support
West Virginia uses an “income shares” model for calculating child support. Under this model, the West Virginia guidelines attempt to give the child the same level of support he would have received if his parents never divorced. To arrive at a support amount, the court combines the parents’ incomes to determine the total basic support obligation. Using each parent’s share of the combined income amount, the court divides that basic support obligation between the parents. The court incorporates work-related child care expenses and health insurance premiums as adjustments to the basic support obligation amount for each parent.
Shared Physical Custody
When parents share physical custody so that each parent has custody over the child for at least 127 days a year, West Virginia changes the method of calculation. The court multiplies the parents’ basic support obligation by 1.5, and then apportions it to each parent by the share of time the parent spends with the child. The parent who owes child support pays the difference between the amounts assigned to each parent.
The court’s child support order can be modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in custody, employment or one parent's income. To pursue a modification, the parents may agree to the modification and have the court approve it, or one parent can petition the court to order a change. Courts often include periodic increases in the original support order to cover expected costs of living changes so parents do not have to frequently return to court.
Court-ordered child support is enforceable by the courts and parents may ask for assistance from the West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement. West Virginia has a unique amnesty program that allows a parent to catch up on large amounts of past-due child support if the receiving parent agrees to waive all or a portion of the interest that has accrued on the debt. In exchange, the paying parent agrees to pay off the amount he owes within 24 months. If he does not pay, the interest is reinstated.