Child support is a complex legal issue that can involve numerous factors including income, healthcare costs, child care costs, number of children involved, employment status, and more. In this week’s FAQ Friday, Carolyn Grimes, partner and attorney at Friedman, Grimes, Meinken & Leischner PLLC, discusses these matters as they relate to child support.

What factors do courts consider when determining child support?

Everybody wants to know how much child support is going to be, whether you’re the payor or the payee. People want to know what that number is going to be and it depends on a lot of different factors.

You have to know how much money each parent makes. You also need to figure out if they’re making money outside of their employment or if they have non-employment income. Sometimes that can also be tricky if you have one parent, for example, who is self-employed, actually getting a number of what is going to qualify as their income for child support might be a little bit different than what qualifies for taxes on a tax return.

You also have to know the child care costs, health insurance costs, how many children are involved, and how much time each parent has with the child can affect child support as well.

When can child support be modified?

Child support can be modified if there has been a material change in circumstances since the last order. For example, if one parent gets a promotion and all of a sudden they’re making another twenty or thirty thousand dollars a year, that’s going to affect child support.

if the child was in full-time daycare and now is starting school and the childcare costs go down, that’s going to affect child support as well.

We have more of an issue when you have somebody who has either quit a job or was fired for cause because the court could decide that they are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed and imputing income back to them.

How is the child support process different for self-employed people?

So when you have self-employed people, what happens is a lot of times it’s difficult to prove how much money they make. You have a lot of people who might have a business where they’re getting cash that’s unreported. You also see that, for example, people that work heavily in tips and the service industries.

If you’re having trouble actually proving how much money the person makes or you think the person is being less than truthful with how much money they make, then it’s a good idea to hire a lawyer because a lawyer will know how to send out subpoenas, pull records, and possibly even you could hire a forensic accountant to prove where the money is coming. That scenario where an attorney who has a background and knows what they’re doing is going to be a lot better at getting some of this information and proving how much a person actually makes than somebody who’s trying to do it on their own.

About the Author

This is a profile picture of family law attorney Carolyn M. Grimes.

Carolyn M. Grimes

Carolyn Grimes is a partner at Friedman, Grimes, Meinken & Leischner PLLC, practicing in all areas of family law including divorce, spousal support, child custody, child support, equitable distribution, retirement issues, and prenuptial agreements, among other areas.

Consistently named a ‘Best Lawyer’ (from 2014-2023), Ms. Grimes has also been honored as an AV Preeminent (2001-2022) and Gold Client Champion (2019-2021) by Martindale-Hubbell. In addition, she’s been named a Top Lawyer by Northern Virginia Magazine Magazine (2011, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021), a Top Attorney by Arlington Magazine (2019-2021), and a Top Attorney by Washingtonian Magazine (2015) as well as many other top attorney designations.

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