Virginia Child Support Enforcement

A child support order is a legal obligation. If the non-custodial parent doesn't pay, he or she can be held in contempt and fined or sent to jail. Also, his or her driver's license or any professional liscense may be suspended. A parent may also have criminal charges brought against them if nonpayment continues for an extended period of time.

Contact DCSE

In Virginia, child support enforcement services are provided by the local child support enforcement agency (DCSE). Payments are made to families by direct deposit or via mail.

The DCSE can enforce a support order by:

  • Withholding income from a parent's wages, social security, unemployment, worker's compensation or veterans disability compensation;

  • Placing liens on a parent's real or personal property;
  • Garnishing state and federal tax refunds;
  • Withhold child support from a paycheck or from unemployment benefits;
  • Garnish worker's compensation benefits;
  • Suspending driving, occupational, sporting and/or recreational licenses (If behind 90 days or more in payments);
  • Credit bureau reports;
  • Bench warrants for arrest;
  • Passport Denial
  • File contempt of court actions, which could result in a jail sentence.

Do I Have to Go to Court?

Maybe. The DCSE has strong administrative methods to establish and enforce support orders, and usually refers cases for court action only when those administrative methods have been unsuccessful. Certain situations, such as those involving minor fathers, must be referred for court action. Generally, for the purposes of enforcing orders when administrative enforcement is unsuccessful, cases are referred for court action when support is past-due for more than 90 days and the arrears are at least $500.

Criminal Prosecution

If the court decides the non-custodial parent could pay some or all of the amount owed, the payer can be held in contempt. Penalties for contempt may include any of the enforcement methods listed above (like suspending a driver’s license), plus fines, jail time, and other penalties. Additionally, the non-paying can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony and face jail or prison time.

Modifying an Order

If a parent is having problems making payments, he or she should contact the court immediately. The parent can always seek to modify their existing support order. This will require going back to court and explaining to the judge why you can’t make your payments. Only a judge can change the amount you owe under a support order. Courts typically review support orders every 36 months.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Virginia's child support enforcement laws.

See also, Child Support Enforcement FAQs, How Do I Locate a Parent for Child Support, Enforcement and Collection of Back Child Support.

Code Section § 20-108.1
Who is Responsible? Both Parents
Agencies Department of Child Support Enforcement Services (DCSE)
Remedies Available
  • Withholding income from a parent's wages;
  • Placing liens on a parent's real or personal property;
  • Garnishing state and federal tax refunds;
  • Withhold child support from a paycheck or from unemployment benefits;
  • Garnish worker's compensation benefits;
  • Suspending driving, occupational, sporting and/or recreational licenses;
  • Credit bureau reports;
  • Bench warrants for arrest;
  • Passport Denial or Revocation;
  • File contempt of court actions, which could result in a jail sentence.
Interest on Missed Child Support Payments Interest is charged on late child support payments and adjudicated arrears at a rate of 6% on amounts unpaid after 30 days.
 

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Federal Enforcement

If the non-custodial parent moves out of Virginia, the support order can still be enforced in any other U.S. state under the Uniform Federal Family Support Act. If you need help locating the other parent, the federal government has a Federal Parent Locator Service.

Free Initial Case Review

Although the law discourages parents from ignoring their child support obligations, it is difficult to get actual relief. If you need help enforcing a child support order in Virginia, then you should talk to an experienced family law attorney. Get started with a free case review.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.