Don't make assumptions when it comes to your child's financial needs.
In virtually any divorce or separation with children in West Virginia, the courts will order one parent to pay child support to the other parent. In theory, this is pretty simple: the payments are made on a regular basis in accordance with the child support formula. But life is complicated, especially with kids, and especially when those kids reside in two households. Parents often spend money on their kids outside the child support payments. Does this count as child support?
The short answer is "no." Things you give to your child or to the other parent don't generally count as child support. If you want to make an exception to this rule, you must clear it with the court to avoid inadvertently violating the child support order.
How does West Virginia determine and enforce child support?
West Virginia uses a specific legal formula to calculate child support based on the parent's income, the number of children, and the amount of time the children spend with each parent. Typically, child support is paid to the parent who the child resides with most of the time. If the children reside with neither parent (for instance, if grandparents have custody), then both parents may be ordered to pay child support to the person the children live with. (This is based on physical custody, not legal custody; if a child lives with you, then you can receive child support even if you aren't the legal guardian.)
Usually, child support payments are paid through the West Virginia Bureau of Child Support Enforcement (BCSE), a unit within the Department of Health & Human Resources. You generally can't make payments directly to the other parent unless this arrangement is approved by the family court.
What is and isn't deducted from child support in West Virginia?
West Virginia law treats a few things as "mandatory deductions" from child support. The two big ones are childcare and extraordinary medical costs (which covers everything from braces to emergency room visits). So, for instance, if you ordinarily pay child support, and in one particular month, you pay for the child's medical procedure, you can deduct the other parent's share of the cost of the procedure from your child support. Likewise, if you ordinarily receive child support and you pay for an extraordinary medical expense, you can add the other parent's share of the cost of the procedure to the child support.
Outside those mandatory deductions, anything extra you give to either the child or to the other parent is generally considered outside the child support system. So, you can't just assume that a gift will come out of your child support, even if the "gift" is something the child definitely needs, such as school supplies. If you want to deduct a gift from your child support, you need to clear it with the judge first.
Talk to an experienced family law attorney about your child support rights.
West Virginia law sets specific rules for child support that are based on the best interests of the child, and the family court's child support order is binding until and unless it's modified by the court. The last thing you want to do is get into trouble for inadvertently violating a court order. If you have questions about how gifts and other expenses interact with your child support, contact Klie Law Offices today.