What is child support?
Child Support is the money that a parent pays to help support a child that does not live with them most of the time. The child might live with the other parent, or with someone else. Under West Virginia law, every child has a right to be supported by both parents.
Who has to pay child support?
One or both legal parents may be ordered by the Family Court to pay child support. For more information about who is a legal parent and paternity, click here. Typically, one parent has to pay a certain amount of money to the parent the child lives with most of the time. If the child does not reside with either parent, both parents may be ordered to pay child support to the person the child lives with, like a grandparent or other relative.
Child support is all based on the child support formula. The amount of support depends on several things, such as the amount of time the child spends with each parent, the gross incomes of both parents, expenses for the child, and the number of children.
How can I ask for child support?
You have to bring some type of legal case in Family Court to get an order for child support. You can file a case just to get child support. Also, the Family Court can order child support in these types of cases:
- Paternity action;
- Domestic violence protective order; and
- Child custody.
Who can help me file for child support?
The West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) can help you file the paperwork to get child support. BCSE is required to assist both parents with the paperwork. BCSE does not represent either parent. BCSE represents the state of West Virginia. You can find contact information for your local BCSE office here. You can find the BCSE application for services here.
You can also ask a lawyer to help you or you can file on your own.
Are there forms I can use to file on my own?
Yes. The following forms must be filled out and filed with the Circuit Clerk’s Office:
Instructions for how to fill out the Petition for Support can be found here.
You will need to serve these forms on the other parent. Click here for more information about service of process: (insert link).
Again, BCSE can help you file your case to get child support if you apply for their services.
How is child support set?
Child support is set with a formula that is based on the gross income of both parents (there is no deduction for taxes or living expenses) and other factors.
Other factors include:
- The number of children;
- Other dependent children of each parent (under some circumstances);
- Cost of medical insurance premium for the child paid by a parent.
- Day Care costs;
- Other child support obligations (orders) of the parents;
- The number of overnights that the child spends with each parent (this is only considered if the number is greater than 127 overnights);
Special rules apply if the child gets Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or gets Social Security benefits because a parent is drawing disability.
The law allows the judge to disregard the formula under some circumstances.
What if a parent can work but doesn’t or works part-time or “under the table” for cash?
The Family Court can “attribute” income to a parent in setting child support using the formula. There are specific rules about this.
Generally, if the parent who has to pay child support (1) voluntarily leaves a job,(2) is able to work, and (3) is not seeking employment, the Family Court will attribute income to that parent based on the assumption that the parent is working not less than a full-time job (40 Hours a week) at the federal minimum wage rate. The Family Court probably won’t attribute income if the reason the parent isn’t working is because he or she is taking care of a young child or a child with a disability or if the parent is a full-time student.
What happens at the hearing?
The hearing is held in Family Court in front of a Family Court Judge. An attorney for BCSE will also be at the hearing. At the hearing you and the other parent will each have a chance to provide information. Bring financial information to support what you are asking for, such as your most recent:
- Pay stubs, W-2s, income tax returns;
- Social security statements if you get disability;
- Bank statements;
- Child care expense receipts; and
- Medical care expense receipts.
The Family Court will apply the income and expense information to the child support formula.
Do I have to pay support if I can’t see the child?
Yes. You do not have the right to disobey a court order for child support. If there is a court order that says you should have parenting time or visitation with the child, you can file a Petition for Contempt against the other parent if he or she isn’t following the court’s order. Sometimes, child support is set by a court, but neither parent asks the court to deal with custody. You may need to file separate court paperwork to establish custody. Click here for more information about custody.
Can I give up (terminate) my parental rights?
Parental rights can be terminated in just 2 ways: (1) someone adopts the child or (2) a Circuit Court terminates parental rights for abuse or neglect in an abuse and neglect case.
How is child support paid?
All orders must provide for automatic withholding of income by the BCSE from the parent who is paying child support. Income-withholding is similar to a “garnishment”. BSCE will send a notice to the employer of the parent who has to pay child support. The notice will include the amount of income that should be withheld from each paycheck to meet the child support obligation.
Payments can be mailed to the BCSE at P.O. Box 347, Charleston, WV 25301.
Payments can also be made at any DHHR office.
Making payments directly to the other parent is not permitted unless the Family Court order specifically allows it.
How much can BCSE withhold from wages?
Under West Virginia law, an employer is required to withhold the amount stated in the Income Withholding Notice sent by the BCSE, provided that it does not exceed the following percentages of your net income: 40% if you are supporting a spouse or dependent child; 50% if you are not. An additional 5% is added if you owe at least twelve weeks of child support arrears, i.e. 55% or 45%.
Note: Court-ordered child support is owed and must be paid even if it is not withheld from your wages.
How do I get information about my child support case?
In most cases, BCSE can provide information and answer questions. Contact your local BCSE Office or customer service at 1-800-249-3778. The BCSE website provides answers to many questions and the location of local offices.
What if the child goes to live with someone else?
BCSE can “redirect” child support to another person who applies for BCSE services based on the fact that the child lives with him or her. The person does not have to have legal custody to have child support sent to him/her.
I do not know where the other parent is living. What can I do?
The BCSE has many ways to locate people, if they have enough information. You should cooperate and give the BCSE as much information as possible, such as SSN, date of birth, employment information, maiden name or aliases, nicknames, and cities and States where he/she lived.
Can BCSE help me collect child support when the other parent lives in another State?
Yes. BCSE will work with the other State child support agency to establish, collect and enforce a child support order. In many cases, the BCSE can collect child support by sending a withholding order (garnishment) directly to the employer in the other state.
I don’t want to cooperate with the BCSE to get child support or paternity established because I am a victim of domestic violence and I am afraid of retaliation. Is there anything I can do?
You should ask the DHHR Worker for a “Good Cause” determination. If approved, you do not have to cooperate with the BCSE services in order to receive benefits (WV Works, Medicaid, etc.). For more information click here.
Helpful Links for Additional Information
West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement-The BCSE website provides answers to many questions and gives the locations of local offices.
West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement- A Parent’s Guide to Child Support.