Child Support in North Carolina

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A divorce is a tumultuous time, and when the situation involves children, it’s even more important to sort through the issues quickly and reasonably. When parents are at odds, there’s enough physical and emotional upheaval for children without adding the stress of a hostile custody and child support battle.

Parents should understand North Carolina’s child support guidelines before they head into court so they aren’t caught by surprise. This is best achieved by working with an experienced North Carolina child support lawyer like Jonathan Breeden.

Attorney Jonathan Breeden has worked with families for more than 20 years, offering legal guidance, compassion, and support during the difficult periods of their lives. He ensures his clients understand their custody rights, support obligations, and fights to create the best possible situation for the children.

Whether you believe you should seek child support or may be asked to pay, North Carolina family attorney Jonathan Breeden can help. To speak with an experienced child support attorney today, call our office at (919) 661-4970

Is child support mandatory in North Carolina?

North Carolina Child Support: The Basics

In North Carolina, a non-custodial parent may be required by the court to make payments to the custodial parent for the purpose of caring for minor children. These payments are to benefit the children, not to financially support the other parent, and are based on a monthly schedule. In some situations, a property transfer can also be a means of child support.

Child support payments are generally meant for more than clothing, food, and shelter. Child support payments can be used to cover all of the children’s needs – not just the most basic necessities. As any parent knows, children come with a variety of expenses, such as:

  • School fees
  • Sport and after school activities
  • Medical needs
  • Braces
  • Transportation

Child support in North Carolina ends when a child reaches 18 and finishes high school, unless an exception has been made. If a child is in school and making progress toward a high school diploma, support can extend up until his or her 20th birthday.

How Child Support is Calculated

Parents often come to a mutual decision regarding when and how much child support will be paid. There is no requirement in North Carolina to settle this matter in court. However, if the parents can’t come to an agreement, the matter will be determined by the judge.

The state bases child support payments on the income shares model, which assumes it is both parents’ obligation to financially support their children. Ultimately, the children should benefit from the same proportion of their parents’ incomes that they would have received if their parents were still married.

North Carolina has strict instructions on how to determine child support for families that make less than $300,000 per year. All of the parents’ incomes are included in the calculations, including:

  • Salaries
  • Self-employment wages
  • Investment income
  • Any other income received by the parents

Once the parents’ gross incomes are determined, the court takes into consideration the number of children and the specific custody arrangement.

  • Primary Custody Calculation — When the non-custodial parent has less than 124 overnights in a year.
  • Joint or Shared Custody Calculation — When each parent has 124 or more overnights in a year
  • Split Custody Calculation — When each parent has at least one child in his or her primary care

There is a mandatory $50 per month child support payment for parents who earn less than $999 per month. For those who make more than this, the guidelines are based on the cost of raising children determined by the Center for Policy Research.

What Factors Are Considered

To best protect the children involved while also attempting to be reasonable toward each parent, the court will try and consider as many points as possible. The objective is to get an accurate picture of the financial situation of all parties involved, but not to be obscured by personal animosity or the emotional challenges present. The information considered in your child support case include:

  • Gross income of each parent from all sources including non-recurring income, state benefits, and even gifts
  • The amount each parent currently pays for other children outside of this case
  • The amount each parent pays for health insurance for the children
  • The amount each parent pays for child care for the children
  • The number of overnights the children spend with each parent

In cases where a parent is re-married, the income of that parent’s new spouse is almost never considered when calculating child support.

Exceptions to Child Support Guidelines

The court has the final say in calculating child support, and the judge can deviate from normal child support guidelines if it feels it is best for the children involved.

Some of the reasons a court may deviate from the normal child support guidelines include:

  • If the combined income of the parents is over $25,000 per month, the court will consider the needs of the children without using the normal child support guideline.
  • If a parent has a low income, the court may deviate in a manner so as to allow that parent to maintain a minimum standard of living based on the federal poverty level at the time of the case.
  • If the parents have a separation agreement in place that arranges for the care of their children, the court will deviate from the standard guidelines in favor of this agreement so long as the agreement is not considered to be unreasonable for the welfare of the children.

An Example of Calculating Child Support Payments

The state of North Carolina offers a calculator to show what the regular guidelines would require of two parents who are seeking to determine shared responsibilities for their child. It’s important to note that this calculator is simply for informational purposes and is not to be taken as legal advice or as the expected child support payments in your case. Your lawyer will help you understand what you can expect given your situation.

As an example of the state’s guidelines being applied in a hypothetical scenario, consider a case where an only child has the following parents:

  • Parent A earns $5,000 per month, will spend 123 nights per year with the child, and pays $250 per month on the child’s insurance premiums
  • Parent B earns $3,000 per month, and will spend the remaining 242 nights per year with the child

Parent A will have an adjusted support obligation of approximately $555 per month.

A child support calculator is available through the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website. However, an experienced North Carolina child support lawyer also can explain what you can expect based on your circumstances.

How to modify and change child support in North Carolina

Child Support: Parent’s Rights

Whether you’re a parent asking to receive child support or if you’re being asked to pay, it’s crucial you provide an honest representation of your income and what you’re able to provide while maintaining a healthy standard of living. You’ll generally be required to prove your income as well as provide an accounting of your children’s needs and expenses.

Once an order has been made, the child support payments become a legal obligation. In addition to the Federal Child Support Enforcement Program, the state created its own enforcement laws. The North Carolina Child Support Enforcement program is part of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Both custodial and non-custodial parents can sign on to the website and review details of their case. Payments can also be made through the site.

Retroactive Child Support Payments

In some situations, parents have been separated for some time before a child support ruling is entered. Sometimes the parents have shared financial responsibility during that period. However, other times the primary caretaker has shouldered most of the burden. If a judge feels it’s in the children’s best interest, he or she may apply North Carolina’s guidelines retroactively up to three years from the date the action for child support is commenced.

Deviations and Modifications

A judge will take into consideration many issues when determining how much support is appropriate. If the judge finds the calculated amount wouldn’t fit the children’s needs, he or she may deviate from North Carolina’s guidelines.

A child support agreement or order can change in the future if there has been a significant change in a parent’s circumstances or three years have passed since the current order was entered. A non-custodial parent can seek a modification if he or she can demonstrate the change would raise or lower the payments by 15 percent.

How a Child Support Lawyer can Help

It can be difficult to understand and assert your rights as a parent, and calculating child support can be extremely stressful for all involved. You want to make sure that everyone is giving their fair share, but there are factors to consider and child support has long-term ramifications.

A qualified North Carolina child support attorney can help you understand the likelihood of a child support order and estimate the amount you’re likely to receive or pay. In addition, if the amount does not meet the needs of the children or is too high and causing financial stress, you’ll want an experienced North Carolina family lawyer on your side.

Contact Breeden Law Office

Jonathan Breeden has been helping North Carolina families through the challenges of negotiating and enforcing child support agreements for more than 19 years. He provides compassionate and strong representation designed to obtain an outcome that is fair and in the best interests of your family’s future.

Call Breeden Law Office today at (919) 661-4970 schedule a consultation to learn how Jonathan Breeden can help with your child support case.

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Call (919) 661-4970

Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

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