What Are the Child Support Laws in West Virginia?

By Samantha Kemp

West Virginia recognizes that both parents have the financial and ethical duty to support their children, whether they live with them or not. Child support orders are established in West Virginia when a couple divorces or when the father's paternity is proved or acknowledged.

Calculation of Child Support

West Virginia uses child support guidelines based on an income-share model to determine the amount of child support that should be paid. This model seeks to keep the child's standard of living close to equal in both households. It combines the parents' adjusted gross incomes together to determine the amount of support the child would require from both parents. Adjusted gross income is the amount of income the parent receives before taxes, minus any payments that the parent is already paying for child support or spousal support. It then divides the support obligation between the parents in proportion to their incomes. The custodial parent's amount of support is deducted from the total support amount, and the noncustodial parent pays the remaining balance. The amount of support that corresponds with the guidelines is presumed to be correct, but it can be adjusted up or down based on extenuating circumstances, such as high costs of child care or medical expenses.

Duration of Child Support Orders

In West Virginia, child support orders typically last until the child has turned 18 or graduates high school, whichever occurs later. However, support can end earlier if the child is legally emancipated or marries before his 18th birthday. A child support order can extend past the child's 18th birthday if she is enrolled in a secondary or vocational program, but only until age 20. A child support order can also last longer if the child is disabled and in continuing need of support.

Enforcement Measures

A custodial parent can ask her local Bureau for Child Support Enforcement office to open a case with this division of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services. This state agency will pursue enforcement measures against the noncustodial parent. The bureau can garnish the noncustodial parent's income so the funds are automatically taken from his paycheck. It can also ask the state treasurer to seize tax returns and lottery winnings. The BCSE may file a criminal contempt of court action against the noncustodial parent if he has willfully failed to comply with the court's support order. If found guilty, the parent can be sent to jail for up to six months. Licenses, such as driver's licenses, recreational licenses and professional licenses can be suspended.

About the Author

Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.

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