Before going any further, please enjoy this disclaimer: The content of this post, indeed of all of my posts, is intended to reference only Virginia law. I am writing this blog to give some idea of the complexities that can underlie family law issues in Virginia and in no way am I giving anyone legal advice here. While I hope these posts will be informative, no one should feel entitled to rely on the information presented here as an authoritative source. Anyone facing a legal issue is well advised to speak to a lawyer face to face to discuss the specifics of that case, rather than relying on general information found on the internet.
The child support system in Virginia is designed to be easy to enforce. It does not always live up to that goal, but it does have many features that simplify the overall process. This series on child support enforcement will discuss the primary way in which child support orders are enforced and what to expect along the way.
First things first, though: in order to enforce a child support order you have to have a court order regarding child support. A private agreement between parents cannot be enforced, nor can longstanding informal practice. A child support order can be received from the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court, also known as JDR, or as part of a divorce from the circuit court. Many times the “child support order” is just the Final Decree of Divorce. An order is a child support order if it orders the payment of child support; it does not matter if it also orders other things.
Regardless of what the child support actually looks like, if it requires one parent to pay child support and it is signed by a judge then you are in business. The most common reason to enforce a child support order is because the payor parent is not paying the required amount of monthly child support. Child support orders also typically require that one parent provide medical insurance for the children and that the parents share the costs of out-of-pocket medical expenses. Even if the monthly child support is being paid correctly, an order can still be enforced if those other parts are not being followed.
The way to enforce a child support order—or indeed any civil court order—is to request a Rule to Show Cause. The next post in the series will address what that is and how it works.