Tag Archive for: child support

Should I Agree to Pay Above the Child Support Guidelines?

It’s no secret that children are expensive, and when a West Virginia couple divorces, the higher-earning party often has to chip in more to ensure that their children’s needs are met. But what if the child support guidelines laid out by the state still don’t meet the child’s needs? If you’re considering paying above and beyond the child support guidelines, it’s important to know how it may affect you down the line.

As you figure out a fair and reasonable child support agreement, make sure you have a strong legal team representing you. Call Pence Law Firm at 304-407-7852 to set up a consultation with our team right away.

Child Support Guidelines in West Virginia

West Virginia uses the Income Shares Support Formula, which calculates both parents’ income and assumes that both parties would be contributing to the child’s upbringing were they to stay married. The calculator also accounts for how much time the children spend with each parent, how many children there are, and any unique expenses involved in caring for the children. Even if child custody is split 50/50, it’s likely that a parent who earns significantly more will pay child support to the lower-earning parent.

There are many higher-earning parents who decide to pay more than what the state requires. Learn more about what this means for you.

Factors That May Influence Your Decision

There are a number of factors that may sway your decision. Perhaps you have the financial capacity to pay above the child support guidelines, and you want to ensure that your child has the quality of life you feel they deserve. Your child may also have unusually expensive extracurricular activities, private school tuition, or medical expenses that push you to give more. If you know that the other parent struggles financially, you may want to support them by providing more financially. Some people also use additional child support as leverage; if you want additional time with your children, you may compromise by providing additional support.

The Benefits and Risks of Overpaying

There are several benefits of paying over what the child support calculator states, including:

  • Showing your commitment to your child and their best interests
  • Limiting conflict with your co-parent and providing for your child in a meaningful way
  • Giving yourself some wiggle room—should your financial circumstances change in the future, you may be able to decrease child support but still be within what the law recommends
  • Allowing your child to participate in more activities and enjoy life to the fullest

However, there are potential risks to consider:

  • If your financial circumstances change and your child support is legally ordered, you may have to go through the expense of hiring a lawyer and going to court to get the order changed
  • Resentment may build if you limit your own quality of life in order to provide extra, particularly if your co-parent isn’t appreciative
  • Potential of having your extra child support used to enrich your co-parent’s life rather than your child’s life

Protecting Yourself Legally

Before you agree to anything, it’s important to discuss your options with a Charleston child support lawyer. If your child support order includes extra child support, that is legally binding—you cannot simply decide to stop paying the “extra” because it is above the child support guidelines. At that point, it is part of a court order, and failing to pay could put you in contempt. 

This is something to think about before agreeing to any set number. If you want to pay extra without the risk of a sudden change in financial circumstances, consider having your child support order reflect the state-mandated amount and paying the rest informally. However, you should discuss these and other options with your lawyer to make the best choice for you and your children.

Explore Your Legal Options with Pence Law Firm

Ready to find the best child support solution for your financial needs? The team at Pence Law Firm is here to help you. Our experience in family law gives us the knowledge and skills needed to handle even the most complex child support cases. Get started now by calling us at 304-407-7852 or filling out our online contact form.

Establishing Paternity and Its Impact on Child Support and Custody

Questions of paternity can be painful and confusing to navigate. Perhaps you’re in a long-term relationship but not married, and you need to know how to get on the birth certificate as your child’s legal father. Maybe you’re questioning the paternity of a child you’ve raised as your own. You may have just found out about the existence of a child that is very likely yours.

No matter what has led you here, we’re here to help. As you figure out your next steps, turn to the team at Pence Law Firm to advocate for you. Call us at 304-407-7852 to set up a consultation now.

How to Establish Paternity

Paternity does not need to be established in every single case. If a child is conceived or born out of wedlock, during a separation, or during a divorce, you must establish paternity. However, even if you are married and the child was born during your marriage, you can seek to prove paternity.

There are several ways to go about establishing paternity in West Virginia. By following any of these accepted routes, you can be legally named as a child’s father. This enables you to seek parenting time and allows either party to establish child support. You can establish paternity by:

  • You can voluntarily acknowledge that you are a child’s father by signing a Declaration of Paternity Affidavit.
  • Either parent can verify paternity or determine paternity if it is in question by requesting genetic testing. The BCSE—Bureau for Child Support Enforcement—will order the genetic testing and send the results.

If you have been struggling to prove paternity because the other parent is resistant, you may wonder about your options if they refuse to submit to genetic testing or refuse to present the child for genetic testing. Once the BCSE orders genetic testing, it is a binding legal order. Should either party refuse, the BCSE can find them in contempt and go forward from there.

Paternity and Child Support

Once paternity has been established, either via the Declaration of Paternity Affidavit or genetic testing, the BCSE will set up a hearing to determine child support for the child or children in question.

In fact, child support is often the primary reason that a parent seeks to establish paternity. Potential fathers often have a lot of questions when this happens—what if they don’t want to be involved in the child’s life? Can they sign their parental rights away to avoid paying child support? What if the mother hid the child from them?

There are very, very few circumstances under which a legal father can avoid paying child support to provide for his child or children. The court will go to great lengths to ensure that the child receives the financial support they deserve, including seizing tax returns and garnishing wages. It is crucial to speak with a child support attorney if you are concerned about your obligations and your ability to pay.

Parental Rights and Custody

The good news is that establishing paternity does give the legal father substantial rights. Once he has been named as the legal father, he can request access to the child in order to build a relationship with them—barring extreme cases of abuse, substance abuse, or other scenarios that would put the child in danger.

If the child is young, visitation may depend on whether or not the child is breastfed and how long they can be away from their mother. Once they reach an appropriate age, a father can request additional parenting time.

If the child is older and the father has not been involved in their life until now, visitation may start gradually and slowly ramp up. This gives the child time to become comfortable with their father before moving to overnight visitation and even shared custody.

Take the Next Step in Your Family Law Case and Contact Pence Law Firm

No matter what situation you find yourself in, we are here to support you. Set up a time to talk to the family lawyers at Pence Law Firm now to talk about your legal options. Give us a call at 304-407-7852 or send us a message online.

Can The Things I Purchase for My Child Count Towards My Child Support In West Virginia?

West Virginia child support laws strictly define which expenses can count towards child support. As a non-custodial parent, you might wonder if gifts or expenses for your child can be considered child support. Consulting an experienced WV family law attorney can help clarify your rights.

Purpose of Child Support

Child support aims to cover a child’s basic needs, such as food, housing, clothing, education, and healthcare. In some cases, it may also include additional expenses like daycare, dental work, car and insurance, phone, internet, and extracurricular activities. For example, if your child needs braces, you may be able to include this cost in your child support payments.

Additionally, the purpose of child support is to ensure that the child’s standard of living remains consistent despite the parents’ separation. This means that financial responsibility is shared between both parents to maintain the child’s well-being, even when they are no longer together.

Including Gifts and Loans in Income

Gifts are generally not considered part of the custodial parent’s income unless the non-custodial parent provides them regularly. The court may consider such gifts as income if they were a part of the income during the marriage, generated from a shared investment, or if the giver will continue to provide them. For instance, if you regularly gifted your child a yearly vacation during the marriage, the court may include this expense in the child support calculation.

However, loans provided by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent might be treated differently. The court may consider these loans as income if they are used for the child’s expenses, such as paying for medical bills or tuition fees. In such cases, the court may take into account these additional financial contributions when determining the child support amount.

Types of Gifts from a Paying Parent

Any payment or item given to the child outside of the child support agreement is usually considered a gift. Examples include toys, electronics, clothes, jewelry, or sports items. If you buy your child a new bicycle, the court typically considers it a gift and not a part of your child support obligation.

It is essential to differentiate between gifts given directly to the child and those given to the custodial parent for the child’s benefit. While the court may not count gifts given directly to the child as child support, providing financial assistance to the custodial parent for the child’s expenses might be considered when calculating the support amount.

Dealing With Payments Made Outside the Custody Order

Payments made outside of the court order are not connected to support payments. If you want to ensure that the gifts you provide count as an alternative form of child support, you can agree with the other parent to include these arrangements through the courts.

In some cases, additional expenses for activities or events may be applied toward traditional child support payments, unless the court does not recognize the arrangement. For example, if you pay for your child’s soccer camp, you may be able to count it towards your child support payment.

Keep in mind that the court will ultimately decide whether to accept these alternative arrangements as part of your child support obligation. Providing clear documentation and proof of the payments made, such as receipts or bank statements, can help support your case when presenting it to the court.

Consult with the Co-parent When You Give Gifts

To avoid misunderstandings, it’s best to coordinate with your ex-spouse when giving gifts or making additional arrangements. Establishing a reasonable budget and discussing acceptable items will ensure both parents are on the same page. For example, agree on a spending limit for holiday gifts to avoid disagreements and maintain a positive co-parenting relationship.

Open communication and collaboration with your ex-spouse can help create a healthy co-parenting environment for your child. By discussing gift-giving and other financial arrangements, you can prevent potential conflicts and ensure your child’s needs are met. Establishing trust and transparency with your co-parent can also foster a sense of stability and security for your child, making them feel loved and supported by both parents.

Contact a Skilled and Compassionate West Virginia Child Custody Attorney Today

To navigate the complexities of child custody, child support, and post-divorce modification orders in West Virginia, consult with the seasoned family law attorneys at Pence Law Firm, PLLC. To schedule a free consultation, call (304) 345-7250 or fill out the online contact form.