Ask a Lawyer: Melanie Friend of CowanGates

 Thanks to CowanGates and Melanie A. Friend for this valuable information pertaining to family law.MELANIE-A-FRIEND-200x300

My husband and I separated, and the children live with me most of the time. How do I ask a court for child support? How does the court decide how much child support I’ll receive?

You will need to either file a petition for child support in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, or ask for child support as part of your divorce proceeding in Circuit Court, depending on the circumstances of your separation. I assume from the way the question is asked that you don’t have any formal custody order yet. From either court, you would want a custody and visitation order to go along with the child support order.

Virginia has a guideline formula for calculating child support. Unfortunately, unless you happen to be an algebra professor, you probably won’t be able to figure out the child support payment in your head. (Like most family law attorneys, I use a software program to help make certain I don’t mess up the math.) The statute is fairly dense, and the calculation does involve several factors. The formula takes into account how many children you have, the gross (pre-tax) incomes of both parents, the cost of any health insurance premiums paid for the children, and any costs the custodial parent must pay for child care while he or she works. If you and your husband share physical custody of your children, the number of days per year that you each have the children in your care would be a factor as well. When you go to see an attorney about child support, or if you go to court without a lawyer, make certain to take pay stubs, documentation of the health insurance premium for the children, and documentation of the childcare costs, so that the attorney or the judge has accurate figures to use in the calculation.

Melanie Friend

MELANIE-A-FRIEND-200x300Melanie Friend practices family law at CowanGates with a focus on divorce, child and spousal support, child custody and visitation, adoption and prenuptial agreements. She joined the practice in 2007 and was named principal in 2012. Before CowanGates, Friend completed a clerkship for the Honorable Timothy E. Meredith of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. She received her undergraduate degree from Thiel College in 2003 and her law degree from Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary in 2006.

Friend is a member of many local associations, including the Metro Richmond Family Law Bar Association and the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar. She serves as judicial candidate endorsement chair on the board of the Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association and serves on the Young Trial Lawyers leadership committee. Friend is also qualified as a Guardian Ad Litem for children. In March 2013, Friend was named the Richmond Bar Association’s 2013 Young Lawyer of the Year.

Click here for more information.