Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have 50/50 Custody?

The common preference in family law courts in Virginia is to maintain joint custody of a child during and after a divorce. This means that both parents maintain legal and physical custody of their child, and in some cases even splitting time equally, 50/50, between parents. However, an equal split of custody in a joint custody case often leads to questions about the payment of child support between parents. If the parents split custody equally, does any child support need to be paid? The answer is yes, even in cases of 50/50 custody one parent will pay the other parent child support.

The Purpose of Child Support Payments

Unlike spousal support payments, where the higher earning spouse pays the lesser earning spouse to help transition the spouse receiving payments into financial independence, the purpose of child support is different. The court maintains that the standard and quality of life for a child should not change, regardless of which parent’s household the child is staying in at the time. Child support payments are used to ensure that the child’s quality of life remains consistent and that the parents are splitting the costs equitably between them. It is important to remember that child support payments are made for the benefit of the child, not the other parent.

How Child Support is Calculated

In Virginia, child support is calculated using a set of factors and formulas found in the state law to determine the amount of support that should be paid from one parent to the other. In cases of sole custody or joint custody where the physical time spent with parents is significantly different, the overnight time totals play a major role in the calculation of benefits. Overnight totals refer to the number of overnight stays the child spends with each parent during the course of a calendar year.

However, in cases in which joint custody splits the time equally between parents, the overnight time totals play less of an important role and other factors become more relevant in the calculations. Each parent’s income and the needs of the child both factor into support payments in addition to the number of eligible children and specific deductions at the state and federal levels. Where time is split 50/50 between parents, the parent who is the higher earner is expected to make payments to the parent who is the lower earner to maintain the child’s standard of living in both locations.

Talk to a Virginia Divorce Attorney Today

While it may seem that splitting time equally with your child should mean that neither parent should be required to pay child support, it is important to remember that child support is not based on the time spent with each parent. It is meant to equalize the experience and quality of life for the child at both homes. To learn more about child support payments and joint custody situations in Virginia, call or contact a local family law attorney in your area today. 


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Matt Kurylo

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