1. Home
  2. /
  3. Fairfax, Arlington & Northern

One of the biggest considerations during divorce proceedings for a couple with minor children is the matter of child support. In Virginia, both parents are required to support their children. When spouses are divorced, this support often comes in the form of child support payments. Which parent pays child support and in what amount is determined based on multiple factors, including the custody arrangement of the parents.

Since Virginia law assumes the parent with primary custody is already supporting any children, the parent without primary custody is typically required to pay child support to the parent with primary custody. The Virginia Code sets out the guidelines used for determining child support obligations. The guidelines consider the number of children that need support and the parents’ combined monthly gross income, as well as custody arrangements.

  • Sole Custody – if one parent has sole custody of all children, the child support owed is based on the proportion of each parent’s income to the combined income.
  • Split Custody – if one child lives with one parent and the other child lives with the other parent, the support owed is the difference between the amounts owed by each parent as a noncustodial parent according to respective “sole custody” calculations.
  • Shared Custody – if parents share custody of a child, the support owed is based on the percentage of days per year the child is with each parent.

Child support is typically paid until a child turns 18 or is legally emancipated. However, if a child is 18, is still in high school, is not self-supporting, and lives with the custodial parent, that parent can seek child support. Under these circumstances, child support will end when the child turns 19 or graduates high school, whichever comes first. Courts may also extend child support payments after a child turns 18, if the child is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled; is unable to live independently, and resides with the custodial parent.

Factors Considered

Courts typically follow the guidelines set out in the Virginia Code when determining a child support obligation. However, a parent can request a deviation from the guidelines and ask the court to raise or lower that amount. When making such a determination, the court considers many factors, including:

  • Monetary support for other family members or former family members;
  • Custody arrangements, including cost of visitation travel;
  • Imputed income to a parent who is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed;
  • Debts of either parent arising from the marriage for the benefit of the child;
  • Court-ordered payments for maintaining life insurance coverage for the child, education expenses, or other court-ordered direct payments for the benefit of the child;
  • Special needs of a child resulting from physical, emotional, or medical condition;
  • Independent financial resources of the child;
  • Standard of living for the child established during the marriage; and
  • Earning capacity, obligations, financial resources, and special needs of each parent.

The court may also consider a written agreement between the parents which includes the amount of child support to be paid. Additionally, courts are permitted to consider other factors as necessary to consider the equities for the parents and children.

Modification of Child Support

Either parent may petition the court to modify the child support amount ordered if there has been a material change in the circumstances. The “material change” must have arisen after the original support order was determined. Examples of material changes include medical emergencies or occasions where the custodial parent’s financial circumstances drastically changes, either improves or worsens.

Additionally, if the non-custodial parent’s income increases, the custodial parent may seek an increase in child support. It’s important to keep in mind that a noncustodial parent’s lack of ability to pay child support resulting from voluntary unemployment (such as quitting your job), is not a sufficient reason to lower a child support obligation. Parents may also enter into an agreement modifying child support obligations, but the agreement must be reviewed and approved by a judge. The modification by agreement must still be based on a change in circumstances and be in the best interest of the child.

A parent who fails to pay child support may be guilty of a misdemeanor or required to pay a fine, in addition to any missing support payments. The child support process can seem confusing, so it’s helpful to consult with a family law attorney. Our family law attorneys are experienced in representing both custodial and noncustodial parents in child support matters and can help you navigate the process.

What Other Clients Have Said About Our Family Law Practice


Ms Johana Foard and her colleagues took over my Divorce case that had been lingering for over 2 years with no hope in sight!!! My other attorney took advantage of me being out of State, after thousands of dollars! Within 3 weeks Johana and her staff closed out my divorce even after opposing counsel was dragging her feet and not sending in the signed agreement that my ex- wife and I had agreed on. Johana took it upon herself to make sure it happened! I would definitely recommend Johana and staff! Thanks Johana!!!


Highly recommended

Joanna Foard has been my family law attorney for the past several months, and I have felt so supported and attended to. She spent so much time with me on our initial consultation, and put me at ease and felt like a friend. My case has been very challenging and there has been so much uncertainty. I felt a relief just having her represent me. She got right to work without missing a beat and truly took my financial concerns into account. She has been honest and straightforward. She has not only been incredibly responsive, but she has shown she truly cares about my situation and wants to help bring resolve and peace. She responds to emails quickly, and if I call unexpectedly, she has either taken the call or returned the call in a timely manner. She is kind and supportive. She even sent a heartfelt sympathy card when I lost my grandmother. I don’t know any attorney who would take the time to do that. She is thorough and thinks out of the box. She is clear and concise, but that’s not to say she won’t take the time needed to ensure my questions are answered. Although she is not able to see my case through to the end due to her out-of-state move, she has never dropped the ball, and has only treated me with respect and consideration. I recommend her without reservation.


The best there is.

Joanna Caccioppoli is a consummate professional, and more. She was extremely helpful throughout my divorce; not only with the outstanding legal advice she provides, but with empathy. Should you contact her, she is quick to get back to you. She works hard to get you what you deserve. She pulled my losing battle into an utter victory. I could not be more thankful to have had her in my corner.


Professional Problem Solver

Joanna was an absolute angel! Professional, knowledgeable, compassionate and patient. She listened to gain understanding of my concerns. She outlined a plan in a clear and concise manner. She achieved the best case outcome for my difficult situation. Very pleased with the results, and have no reservations about recommending her to anyone in a challenging situation that needs resolving by a sharp, clear-thinking pro.


Professional, Passionate, Proficient and very Pleasant to work with!

Joanna assisted with navigating a difficult divorce agreement when emotions were running high. My original lawyer failed to move proceedings along at an appropriate pace, and I hired Joanna to pick up from where he left off, and from Day 1 Joanna was on the ball, holding the opposing party accountable for their actions, and ensuring a timely and suitable resolution to our case.

She stuck to the facts, allowed the truth to be showcased, and stood her ground when personal attacks came our direction. With Joanna in your corner, you never have to feel alone. She will defend you and your position like a Pitbull if necessary, but was always great to work with, and carried with her an upbeat demeanor at all times.

I’d highly recommend Joanna’s services to anyone that needs not only professional representation, but also a friend as you navigate through a difficult scenario!


Herculean Effort

Joanna is incredibly hard-working, understanding, knowledgeable, and responsive. Besides all that, she’s a pleasure to work with…which is so appreciated given the difficult issues she’s helped us work through. I’ve often thanked her for the Herculean effort she’s put forth on behalf of my family and me. I would highly recommend Joanna.


The Personal Touch

After consulting with a few attorneys, I hired Joanna to work my case because she made me feel at ease. I couldn’t believe how responsive she was to every question and concern I had. She often proactively followed up just to see how I was doing if she hadn’t heard from me in a few days. She is thorough, informative, and personable. Just what I needed while going through one of the most difficult times of my life.


Professionalism, honesty, and efficiency… Joanna has it all!

I hired Joanna after a long drawn out battle of a divorce. Once I finished my divorce I went to Joanna with the intention of getting my child to my planned home with my new husband. Fast forward just a few months and we are now married and happily residing in Hawaii. Throughout the process Joanna was always honest, to the point, and efficient in what she expected of the courts and how my situation looked. I would recommend her to anyone looking for someone who can get results and be forthright in what you can expect.


Divorce completed in 8 weeks

Joanna was attentive to every detail of my case. She was available for my questions and returned my calls and emails promptly. Joanna’s attention to detail and compassionate heart made me know I was not just another file in her case-load. She is a compassionate attorney who goes above and beyond to make sure her clients feel cared for and know that she is taking care of them. She prepared me for court by running me through all the questions that would be asked, so I never felt off guard. Joanna made a very difficult situation as smooth and painless as possible.


Look No Further For Family Law Representation

Obviously when you require legal services it’s awesome to find someone that you can be confident with and comfortable in your dealings.

Joanna Foard is that attorney!

She is easy to speak with, detailed when it comes to that moment when you stand before the bench and most importantly prepared.

What a relief to be represented in such a professional manner!

Thank you sooo much!


Clear and compassionate

I consulted with Joanna regarding a dispute over some intricacies of a contract. She instantly understood my case and was wonderful at quickly explaining what breaches had occurred and what options I had moving forward. When I didn’t understand a finer point, she was happy to explain it until I did. Speaking with Joanna is a pleasure and I cannot recommend her highly enough for her kind and straightforward professionalism.


Amazing attorney

I can’t begin to tell you where I should start when talking about Joanna. She comes across very sweet and innocent, but once you get to know her she is like a lion ready to pounce. I hired Joanna to take over when our previous attorney switched the type of law she was practicing. She picked up in the middle and carried it all the way through. She really makes you feel like you are a friend and not just a client. I would give her 10 stars if I could. Joanna is amazing.


A Genuine People Person who Happens to Practice Law

Joanna was by far the kindest and most considerate attorney I have hired. From our first encounter through the conclusion of our case, my wife and I had no doubt that our best interest was at the forefront of her mind. She and her team worked efficiently to make the best use of the fees we paid. Joanna also expertly explained Latin-based legal terminology to us in plain English, so that we knew exactly what was going on. The case was resolved to our satisfaction and I highly recommend her services. I will not hesitate to pick up the phone and contact Joanna again, should the need arise.


Honest lawyer who keeps it real!

When you first meet with Joanna it is like you are talking to an old friend. She is very knowledgeable along with being empathetic to your situation. Don’t let that fool you though, as soon as the time is right the boxing gloves come on and she is prepared and ready to fight.


We won !!!

Joanna represented me in a domestic violence stalking injunction case in which I was wrongly accused of stalking. She was thoroughly prepared for the hearing, and made sure to answer all of my questions before the hearing occurred so that I knew exactly what to expect, and what questions I would be asked. It is really unnerving to be accused of something that you did not do, and I am so grateful to Joanna for easing my fears and helping get the injunction dismissed! I would definitely recommend her to my family and friends, or anyone who needs an aggressive attorney that truly listens to your concerns and is totally on their side. I can’t thank you enough or recommend you enough, Joanna!