How does child support in NC work?
Parents in North Carolina, whether married or unmarried, are financially responsible for their children. When a couple breaks up, it is especially true that parents are responsible to take care of their children financially.
Couples who divorce or break-up must provide financial support for their children through NC child support payments. In North Carolina, the custodial parent receives monthly payments from the non-custodial parent.
The payments provide the child, or children, with basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. The non-custodial parent is the individual with the least contact time or fewest overnights with the child. The custodial parent has the most contact or overnights with the child.
It is the non-custodial parent that must pay NC child support to the custodial parent. Although this is the case, it doesn’t mean the custodial parent doesn’t pay their own part. North Carolina courts assume that the custodial parent spends their half of child support on the youth throughout the month on day-to-day items and care.
How does the non-custodial parent pay NC child support?
The non-custodial parent pays a monthly sum to the custodial parent via check, electronic payment, or cash. In some cases, an individual’s wages can be withheld by the court or through an agreement between the parents.
Child support obligations remain in place until the child turns 18-years old. In some cases, an NC child support order can remain intact until the child turns 20-years old, if they have not yet graduated from high school.
NC child support calculator
North Carolina has a strict calculation in place to establish the amount of money a non-custodial parent pays in child support.
The calculation takes into account a number of factors, including:
- Both parents’ gross monthly incomes
- Any child support obligations previously in place with other children
- Other dependents the parents are responsible for
- Daycare and childcare expenses paid by the parents
- The amount of money paid by the parents in health insurance premiums
- Any “extraordinary expenses” that the parents pay on behalf of the child
- Private school tuition
Parents can make a request for the courts to deviate from North Carolina’s child support guidelines. When asking for a deviation, parents can ask the court for more or less financial support. A deviation can be applied if the situation and/or payment isn’t reasonable. One of the reasons child support can be increased is due to a child’s special education or healthcare needs.
Are NC child support payments fixed forever?
Non-custodial parents may feel that the child support payments they pay are forever. However, this is not the case and the amount can go down. Conversely, they can also go up. To alter the amount of money paid in child support, a non-custodial parent and their attorney must provide evidence of a change in financial circumstances. The change in circumstance must be substantial.
Areas that a non-custodial parent or custodial parent can petition the court to review may include:
- A change in the child’s health
- An increased financial burden placed on the custodial parent
- A loss of employment
- Gaining new employment with higher wages
- A decrease in income
According to North Carolina child support guidelines, parents must wait three years and a 15% or higher change in the amount of child support is believed a substantial change.
What if parents do not pay NC child support?
Regardless if a parent is fired from or lose their job, they are still entitled to pay child support. Although it can be difficult to continue payments, it is the responsibility of the non-custodial parent to continue making payments.
Parents that do not pay their child support payment can be punished. There are a range of penalties that a non-custodial parent who does not pay child support can incur. One of which is jailtime, however, there are additional punishments one can receive.
Punishments for non-payment of NC child support include:
- The withholding of income from employment, social security benefits, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, or veterans’ disability compensation
- The placement of a lien on an individual’s home or business
- Garnishing state and federal tax refunds
- Suspend the individual’s driver’s license as well as your occupational, sporting, or recreational licenses
- Damaging the parent’s credit score
- Suspension of the individual’s passport
- Fines and penalties
It is the responsibility of the non-custodial parent to stay on top of their child support payments.
NC child support guidelines
Child support cases in North Carolina are subject to something we call the guidelines when I say we, I mean professionals in the legal system and it’s in large measure a mathematical equation. And there are always exceptions in family law. The exception to every rule, really. But there are there are calculations done based on charts. It’s almost like an actuarial chart where you take the income of the parent or parents, depending on how that all works out. And you take the number of children or individual child and they say if it’s this amount of money and you look down you go, that’s how much it is a month.
OK, so it is very formulaic. It’s preset. Now, there are lots of considerations in that in that chart, meaning if you make over a certain amount or or there’s substantial assets in with the parents, the guidelines are a little bit less applicable because they stop at a certain number.
Child support for college in NC
Maybe you have children that are young or maybe you have children, they’re teenagers, and they’re getting ready to head off to college. And you’re wondering how am I going to afford this? Or you have some sort of an informal agreement with your husband or your wife about how you would pay for college expenses for your children.
Now, the one thing you should know is North Carolina courts are not going to make your spouse pay child support through college. Your spouse is not going to be ordered to pay college expenses for your son or daughter. And North Carolina child support ends either when your child turns 18 or when they graduate high school. It doesn’t include anything for college. However, there is a way that you can make an agreement and you can agree on paying for college expenses. And that is standard of separation. Very much in that agreement, you can decide how you want to pay for college for your children.
Many times parents decide they want to split the education expenses for their children going to college 50/50. Usually the divorce lawyers and attorneys have to put some language in there limiting how much parties are going to be paying. Often it is based on public school tuition for a school such as North Carolina, Chapel Hill that limits your exposure. So you’re not going to be paying half the tuition for Harvard, Yale, although maybe you want to, but you don’t necessarily want to sign something agreeing to that. But it does allow you to know that your spouse is also going to contribute. This is completely up to you. It’s a voluntary thing to enter into, not something that you have to do.