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Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody?

When two parents are working through the divorce process and negotiating issues like divisions of property, custody, spousal support, and child support, so many surprising and new questions can arise. After all, the state (usually) doesn’t step in when you are functioning as a married family to dictate how money is spent and how children are cared for. But to obtain a valid divorce, the court will want to see either a full agreement containing detailed provisions for child custody and, if necessary, child support, and if the parents cannot work out an agreement on these issues, a judge will make the decision for them.

Which brings us to a common question that we hear from parents working through the divorce negotiation process: “Do I have to pay child support if I have joint custody?”

Custody and Child Support are Distinct but Related Issues

In Virginia, custody refers to the responsibility of caring for a child and making decisions on his or her behalf. There are two types of custody: Legal Custody and Physical Custody. Legal custody gives one or both parents the responsibility to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child (such as educational, medical, and general well-being choices). Physical custody gives one or both parents the responsibility of providing regular shelter, food, and physical care for the child; the other parent would normally have a set visitation schedule when one parent is granted physical custody. When one parent alone has legal and physical custody, this is called Sole Legal and Physical Custody. When both parents share legal and physical custody, this is referred to as Joint or Shared Legal and Physical Custody.  

Joint physical custody often entails a situation where the child stays with one parent for part of the week and the other parent for the remaining part of the week, or could be a week-on/week-off arrangement, or some variation. As each parent is contributing to the child’s welfare by providing food, shelter, and other amenities through the joint custody situation, this might suggest that the court will not award child support as well.

That is not the case, and, in fact, a family law judge will often require that one spouse pay child support even where there is a joint custody arrangement.

How is Child Support Calculated in a Joint Custody Situation?

The amount of time that each parent spends taking care of the child will be factored into the child support ordered as well as the gross incomes of each parent. Thus, if one parent has custody for only two days a week, this will result in a lower payment to that parent than if he or she had custody for four or five days a week.

Other factors that Virginia courts will use the split custody schedule and compute a figure for child support, which also incorporates the following factors:

  • The income of the parent paying child support
  • The income of the parent receiving child support
  • The number of children
  • The needs of the children, including cost of living and any special medical needs

Work with Experienced, Compassionate Family Law Attorneys

At Kurylo Gold & Josey in Fredericksburg, we will guide through all of your questions regarding child support and custody, and help you work towards favorable outcomes for you and your children. For a consultation with a compassionate and experienced family law professional, call the firm today at (540) 642-1766.