Child support in North Carolina is defined under N.C. G.S. § 50-13.4(c), child support payments shall be in such amount as to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance, having due regard to the estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties, the child care and homemaker contributions of each party, and other facts of the particular case. Child custody laws and child support laws are complex and we strongly urge you to contact a child custody lawyer for help determining what your best interests are and the best interests of your child.
Child Support Amounts
While the parents can agree on a child support amount based upon the income of the parties and the needs of the children, Courts generally use the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines to calculate the child support obligation. The guidelines add predictability and simplicity when determining child support, and are based upon the incomes of the parties. In certain cases, however, the parties can request that the Court deviate from the guidelines. If the Court finds that there are facts relating to the reasonable needs of the child for support and the relative ability of each parent to provide support, and that the application of the guidelines would not meet or would exceed the reasonable needs of the child or are unjust, the Court may vary from the Guidelines.
Child Support Attorneys in North Carolina
Herring & Mills PLLC is a full service Raleigh NC family law firm. Our attorneys exclusively practice family law only, and handle cases regarding adoption, separation, child custody, child support, contested divorce, uncontested divorce, equitable distribution, alimony, alienation of affection, criminal conversation, domestic violence, spousal support, assisted reproduction, egg donation and surrogacy. If you need a North Carolina lawyer for help with your family law case, call us at (919) 821-1860. Our offices are located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. We offer family law representation to the residents of Raleigh and the counties of Wake, Durham, Chatham and Orange, including Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Zebulon, Wendell, Garner, Brier Creek, Midtown, North Hills, Morrisville, Wake Forest, Rolesville, Fuquay Varina, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, South Pointe, RDU and beyond. Call us today at (919) 821-1860.
An experienced child custody lawyer can help you in your child custody case. In North Carolina, determining child custody is ultimately done by a judge, who will consider:
- the stability of the parties
- the living situation of each party
- who encourages educational pursuits
- other factors to ascertain the best interests of the child
The judge will determine what is in the best interests of the child. Parents are able to work out a custody agreement but should remember that the court may step in at any time. Visit our frequently asked questions page on custody for additional information.
You are strongly urged to speak with an experienced child custody lawyer before taking any legal action. Child custody laws are often complicated and are applied differently by the courts when determining child custody, as judges must consider the best interests of the child among other factors. A child custody lawyer can explain North Carolina’s child custody laws and advise you regarding child custody child support matters. If you are a resident of Wake County and need help getting child support, contact the Wake County Child Support Services office or the North Carolina Child Support Enforcement office. The North Carolina Guidelines for Child Support can help give you an idea as to the amount of child support you may expect to receive. Visit our Child Support page for additional information.
Child Custody Terms & Definitions
- physical custody – where the child(ren) are actually staying
- legal custody – the ability to make decisions regarding the child’s healthcare, education, etc.
- joint custody – in a joint custody arrangement where the parents share custody of the child
- sole custody – in a sole custody arrangement, one parent is given physical custody for an extended period of time
- visitation – used to refer to right to see children given to non-custodial parent; now usually custody is declared Primary and Secondary
The North Carolina Advocates for Justice provide an excellent child custody and support brochure as another quick reference regarding child custody laws in North Carolina.
Child Support FAQs
The Guidelines are a formula devised by the Conference of Chief District Judges which analyzes the incomes of the parents, the expenses for childcare and health insurance, and the time spent with each parent in determining the child support obligation. Generally, the formula calculates each parent’s income as a percentage of the combined incomes of the parents, attributing the expenses on a pro rata basis after also taking into consideration the time each parent has with the children. It’s a complicated formula that is beyond the scope of this summary. In high-income cases the parties may deviate from the Guidelines.
If the parents are unable to come to an agreement, either one can file a complaint for child support against the other with the Wake County Court. A hearing is usually scheduled within 30-45 days before a District Court Judge where the parties will provide their income information, the cost of work-related childcare, and the cost of health insurance for the children. In some cases, extraordinary expenses are considered, for example, when there is a special-needs child, or a child travels extensively with a club or group which is expensive. If the parties cannot agree before the hearing, the judge will decide.
Child support usually ends when the child reaches the age of eighteen (18), unless the child hasn’t graduated high school. In that case, child support will continue until the child graduates, leaves school, or reaches twenty (20). Although not required by law, many parents agree to share or pay in full the costs of college.
Child support can be modified when there are a “substantial chance in circumstances”, a legal term of art which has many _____________. Increases or decreases in income, loss of a job, beginning employment, disability, and “aging out” of one of the children, are all examples of changes that might warrant a change in child support, although each case is based its specific circumstances. WHAT ABOUT AFTER THREE YEARS? A word of caution to the parent responsible for paying child support seeking a modification of child support—although you have filed a petition to modify child support, you must continue to pay the required amount until the court changes the obligation.
Failure to pay child support can lead to civil or criminal contempt, a finding of which may lead to jail time. The courts can enforce child support obligations through wage-withholding orders, interception of tax refunds and lottery winnings, suspension of state-issued licenses, putting a ‘flag’ on a passport, judgments, and other methods.
Visitation with the minor children is not contingent on the payment of child support. In other words, if the other parent isn’t paying child support, the other parent cannot withhold visitation. If the parent ceases visitation, he or she is subject to civil or criminal contempt.
Adjustments are made to the basic child support amount for the payment of work-related child care costs, health insurance premium costs, and extraordinary expenses. Whoever pays these costs get credit against his or her child support obligation dollar-for- dollar.
Child support can be modified when there is a substantial change in circumstances. This might include:
Increases or decreases in income,
loss of a job,
“aging out” of one of the children
The above are all examples of changes that might warrant a change in child support, although each case is based its specific circumstances.
If the obligor (the party paying child support) fails to pay child support, then the obligee (the party receiving child support) can request that the Court enforce payment. The Court may hold the obligor in civil or criminal contempt, which may result in the obligor going to jail. Other methods for the Court to enforce child support obligations are through wage-withholding orders (garnishments), interception of tax refunds and lottery winnings, suspending state-issued licenses, putting a ‘flag’ on a passport, and/or entering judgments. Visit the North Carolina Child Support Enforcement site for more details.
Child support ends when the child has become emancipated, reaches the age of 18 (unless the child has not graduated from high school), is no longer attending school on a regular basis, fails to make satisfactory progress towards graduation, or reaches age 20, whichever comes first. However, the parties can agree to pay child support for a longer period than obligated under the law, and pay for college expenses.