In North Carolina, parents have a legal duty to financially support their children until they reach 18 years of age and have graduated from high school. The amount of support each parent is obligated to pay is generally based upon the proportion his or her income contributes toward the total income of the parties.
In most cases, the amount of child support a parent is obligated to pay is calculated according to the Child Support Guidelines. In certain circumstances, these guidelines do not apply, and in those cases, child support will be calculated based upon the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to pay support.
The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines apply to parents whose combined gross income is $360,000 or less per year, and the proportionate amount each parent owes depends upon several variables, including the number of nights the child spends at each parent’s residence, the cost of the child’s health insurance, work-related childcare expenses, and any extraordinary expenses the child may have. If the combined gross income of the parents exceeds $360,000 per year, evidence of the child’s actual expenses will be used to determine child support.
When child support is calculated pursuant to the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, child support is calculated using one of three worksheets: A, B, or C.
Worksheet A applies when one parent has primary custody; Worksheet B applies when the parents share custody; Worksheet C applies in only a few circumstances.
We recommend that you consult a qualified family law attorney if you are involved in a matter in which child support is to be determined, since the amount may vary depending upon a number of circumstances.
Click below to be directed to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services site to calculate child support.
North Carolina law provides that parents share an obligation to pay child support in an amount necessary to meet the child’s “reasonable needs” – food, shelter, clothing and other necessities – according to each parent’s relative ability to pay the necessary amount.
Child Support ordered by a court may be reduced or increased if there has been a “substantial change of circumstances” since the court established the amount due. The “substantial change” may be an increase in the cost of the child’s needs. For example, the cost of the child’s health insurance could double, or the child might need braces or counseling. Alternatively, the “substantial change” could be a change in one or both parents’ ability to pay the amount of child support previously ordered. Under North Carolina law, if the child support order you are seeking to modify is at least three years old and there is a difference of 15% or more between the amount of child support payable pursuant to that order and the amount of support that would be owed by calculating child support using the parties’ current incomes and circumstances, it will be presumed to constitute a substantial change of circumstances.
If parents have agreed upon an amount of child support in a separation agreement or other contract, the amount may be modified by amendment of the contract. If the parents are unable to agree on a new amount, one or both parents may file a lawsuit asking the court to establish the amount of child support. In this situation, a judge must initially presume that the amount the parents agreed upon in their contract is reasonable. The parent wishing to change the amount must overcome that legal presumption.
If the support is court-ordered, the parent not receiving support may file a contempt motion in which he or she asks the court to enforce the support order by holding the non-paying parent in contempt. A parent held in contempt faces a number of penalties, including possible jail time and/or attorney fees.
If the support is due pursuant to a separation agreement or other contract, the parent who is supposed to receive support must file a lawsuit for breach of contract and specific performance to enforce the terms of the contract.