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. If the combined gross income of the parents exceeds $360,000 per year, evidence of the child’s actual expenses shall be used to determine child support.
When child support is calculated pursuant to the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, child support is calculated by 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 states 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. Or, on the other side of the coin, the “substantial change” could be a change in one or both parents’ ability to pay the amount of support previously ordered. Under North Carolina law, an increase or decrease in the parents’ combined gross monthly income of 15 percent or more in the three years since support was ordered presumptively qualifies as a “substantial change.” A judge will first determine whether there has been a “substantial change” that merits an increase or decrease before deciding whether to alter the existing amount of child support due.
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 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 to enforce the terms of the contract (“specific performance”) or for breach of contract.