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Child Support Toolkit

The child support information provided in this Toolkit is broad and general. Each answer is very short and simple. This means we have left out many details and many possible complications. This information is intended to help you understand the kinds of issues that may come up in a child support case. It is NOT intended to address every possible situation. As always, it is best to talk with a lawyer about particular problems.

Common Questions

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:

  • Divorce;
  • 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.

When can child support be changed or modified?

If you already have a child support order, you can ask the Family Court to increase or decrease the amount of child support if there has been a “substantial change of circumstances” since the last order. To do this you must show the court there is a reason for the change. Here are some reasons why child support could be changed:

  • Either parent gets a raise or a new job that pays more;
  • Either parent loses a job;
  • The child’s needs increase;
  • A change in the custody arrangement;
  • An increase in child care expenses;
  • The child turns 18 but is still in high school (not college); or
  • The child is over 18 but is disabled.

Just like when your last child support amount was set, the Family Court will consider the parents’ income and expenses by using the child support formula. Click here for more information about the child support formula. If there is at least a 15% change in the amount of child support (up or down), the Family Court will issue a new order changing the amount of support. For example, if the previous child support amount was $100.00 and the formula now shows that it should be increased to $114.00, the Family Court will not modify the order. If it shows $116.00, the Family Court will change it to that amount.

What can happen to me if I am behind in my child support payments?

If you do not pay child support, the other parent or the West Virginia Bureau for Child Support Enforcement (BCSE) may file paperwork to bring you back to court. This is called a Petition for Contempt. After hearing the evidence, the Family Court may find you in contempt of court. Examples of what might happen in that case include the court ordering your employer to take part of your paycheck or unemployment benefits to pay for the child support; loss of your driver’s license; your tax refunds could be taken; or liens could be placed against your property, among other things. If you are behind in your child support and the Family Court finds you willfully failed to pay, you could go to jail. The type of action taken by the Family Court and the BCSE depends on the individual circumstances of your case.