West Virginia Child Support Laws

West Virginia child support laws according to chapter 48.  Domestic Relations.  Aim to “improve and facilitate support enforcement in this state, with the primary goal being to establish and enforce reasonable child support orders and thereby improve opportunities for children”.

To some parents paying child support in the state, the amount they pay monthly in their eyes is anything but reasonable.  Why do I say this?  Think about it, how much do you know about how the judge decides the amount?  What are your options if you cannot honor your obligation?  Very little, right?

Below is a comprehensive guide to upkeep laws in West Virginia balanced to suit non-custodial and custodial parents.

Let us begin with the basics.

How to apply for child support in West Virginia

The West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement announced that it is introducing a new online child support application service.

The program provides non-custodial parent location, paternity establishment, collection of support payments, review and modification of child support orders, and all related services.

To access the service, you must have a valid email address.

However, you may also apply for support the traditional way, where you download the paper application linked below or walk into any child support office near you.  But because of COVID-19, the department encourages online applications.

Find a local child support office here.

Apply for child support online here. 

Download paper application.

What to remember:

  • You may contact the child support customer service unit Monday through Friday at 1-800-249-3778.
  • Parents must create a BCSE account to apply online.
  • You must have a social security number to apply online.
  • West Virginia does not charge child support application fees.
  • If you receive child support payments, you will no longer receive cash assistance, including TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).
  • Families receiving Medicaid, TANF or state assistance qualify for BCSE services automatically.

How is paternity established in West Virginia?

According to the BCSE, there are three ways to establish paternity in West Virginia.

  1. Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity: this happens when both parents complete and sign the Declaration of Paternity Affidavit.
  2. Administrative establishment: parents may petition the BCSE to conduct genetic testing.
  3. Court: either parent may ask the court to order a paternity test as part of a lawsuit.

What to remember:

  • The family court considers the “best interests of the child”, meaning the judge might refuse to warrant a DNA test.
  • Either parent may bring a court case against the other to establish paternity.
  • Paternity establishment creates a legal relationship between the father and child.  Hence child support becomes a legal obligation.
  • The BCSE may not assist either parent with visitation and custody issues.
  • Paternity establishment grants the child inheritance rights, and the father may get custody or visitation rights if the court orders it.

How is child support determined in West Virginia?

In West Virginia, your child support amount depends on the number of children in both households, parenting time arrangement, the gross income(s) of both parents, and the cost of raising a child in the state.

The state uses the Income Shares Formula based on the presumption that a child(ren) should receive the same proportion of parental income they would receive if the parents never split.

How does it work?

How to calculate child support in West Virginia?

The BCSE and West Virginia courts have two ways to estimate your obligation.  One is the Income Shares Basic Parenting Worksheet. Two, Income Shares Extended Shared Parenting worksheet. Both worksheets are based on West Virginia child support laws but are not always accurate.  What do I mean?

First, the judge will decide your obligation based on the best interests of the child.  Meaning if the amount that results from using the formula does not capture the child’s best interests, then the judge will deviate.

Therefore, when calculating child support, statute 48-13-202 requires the court to:

  • Determine the combined gross incomes of both parents.
  • Add any unreimbursed child healthcare expenses and any other extraordinary expense such as extraordinary medical expenses.
  •  Then subtract any extraordinary credits ordered by the court.

Section 48-13-204.  Use of Worksheets reads:

“The calculation of the amount awarded by the support order requires the use of one of the worksheets which must be completed for each case.  Worksheet A is used for Basic Shared Parenting Arrangement.  Worksheet B is used for extended shared parenting arrangement”.

What that means is.  To calculate child support, what you should do is:

Image 1: West Virginia Monthly Basic Child Support obligations table

What does deviation in child support mean?

As mentioned above, the West Virginia Child Support formula does not always provide appropriate upkeep amounts.  To counter this problem, the judge may deviate because of the reasons below.

Chapter 48 Domestic relations.  88-13-702 (a) says.

“If the court finds that the guidelines are inappropriate in a specific case, the court may either disregard the guidelines or adjust the guidelines-based award to accommodate the needs of the child or children or the circumstances of the parent or parents.  In either case, the reason for the deviation and the amount of the calculated guidelines award must be stated on the record (preferably in writing on the worksheet or in the order).  Such findings clarify the basis of the order if appealed or modified in the future”.

Factors for child support deviation in West Virginia

  • Extraordinary visitation costs incurred by the non-custodial parent.
  • The Special needs of the parents or child(ren).
  • The number of kids subject to support action.
  • Educational expenses for the parent or child

What to remember:

  • If the paying parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court will impute his/her income.

How to modify child support in West Virginia

West Virginia child support laws allow parents to ask the court for a support order change whenever they experience a substantial change in financial circumstances.  However, the burden of proof is on the petitioning parent, meaning you must explain to the judge why your support order is unfair or unjust.

When deciding whether to award an increase, decrease, or to leave the order as is.  State law requires the judge to consider factors including child care expenses, the age and needs of the child, cost of medical or dental insurance, and all other factors consistent with the best interests of the child.

For example, if a child develops a disability, the custodial parent may ask the court for an increase to help cover the special needs of that child.  On the other hand, if a parent involuntarily loses his or her job, or if your employer reduces work hours.  That parent may petition for a support order change.

How to request upkeep modification in West Virginia

Note that parents may only request a change three years after an order became effective or last review.  But if your financial circumstances change significantly, you may petition for change at any time.

To that end, you must:

What to remember:

  • A substantial change in financial circumstances in West Virginia means an increase or decrease in income resulting from uncontrollable factors such as involuntary job loss.
  • Parents incarcerated for a period exceeding six months may petition for modification.
  • All modification requests must be in writing.
  • If you need more information, contact support at 1-800-642-3617.

What happens if you do not pay child support in West Virginia?

In West Virginia, child support arrears are subject to interest payments.  Also, your support order may include an income withholding order requiring your employer to garnish child support directly from your salary, wages, or income.  However, income withholding orders do not always yield the expected results.  Hence the BCSE and courts may use any of the following enforcement actions.

  • Credit bureau reporting: the BCSE may report the delinquent parent to credit bureaus.
  • Tax return interception: the BSCE may ask the IRS or state treasurer to intercept the paying parent’s federal, local, or state tax returns.
  • Passport denial: if you owe more than $2500, the BCSE through the state department may deny or revoke your passport.
  • License suspension: through other agencies including the DMV, the BCSE may suspend or revoke the paying parent’s drivers, recreational or professional license.
  • Liens on property: the BCSE may place a lien on the paying parent’s assets.

Criminal nonsupport in West Virginia

West Virginia child support laws define criminal nonsupport as willful failure to pay upkeep.  What is important to remember is that if convicted and sent to jail, you will still owe arrears plus accumulated interest.

The punishment for nonsupport is jail time, a fine, or both.

What to remember:

  • In child support cases, jail is often the court’s final resort.  But the judge might place you on a work-release program or order community service.
  • You may prevent enforcement action by honoring your obligation, petitioning for order changes, or establishing a repayment plan.
  • Suppose your circumstances change, for example, if you lose your job. Then, contact the BCSE or court where your order was issued to prevent arrears and interest accumulation.
  • West Virginia’s Amnesty Program assists parents who have accumulated significant upkeep debts.

When does child support end in West Virginia?

18 is the age of emancipation according to West Virginia Child Support laws.  But your obligation may continue until the child is 19 if they have not yet graduated high school.

Also, an agreement to provide college or university tuition may extend your obligation until the terms of the agreement are honored.  So, consult with a family court attorney.

Emancipation laws in West Virginia

According to West Virginia Child Support Laws, any 16-year-old that gets married is automatically emancipated.  You may also seek emancipation by joining the US military.  Or you may petition the local juvenile court for emancipation.

However, the petitioning minor must live separately from their parents, their source of income must be legal, and they must show an ability to handle their social and financial responsibilities.

So, consult with a juvenile court attorney if you feel that emancipation is the way forward.

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