When a marriage ends in North Carolina, or when unmarried people who have a child break up, both parents are responsible for providing support to their child or children. However, the court generally assumes that the parent who has sole or primary physical custody of the child (the “custodial parent”) is paying child support “by default” — meaning that the custodial parent is most likely spending the required amount of child support directly on the child as long as they’re providing adequate day-to-day care.
The non-custodial parent, on the other hand, usually has to provide child support in the form of cash, check, electronic payments, or wage-withholding under a structure determined either by the court or by mutual agreement between the parents. These payment obligations will usually continue until the child turns 18, although they can sometimes last until the child turns 20 if the child hasn’t yet graduated high school.
If you’re currently going through a divorce or a proceeding to modify existing child support, you should contact the attorneys at Myers Law Firm right away. We have years of experience working with clients who are going through difficult times, and we’ll treat you with compassion and understanding as we fight to protect your rights during any family law negotiations and legal proceedings.
How Do North Carolina Courts Determine Child Support?
In most cases, a court in North Carolina will set child support according to a strict mathematical calculation established in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. This calculation takes a number of different factors into account, including:
- The parents’ gross monthly incomes
- Pre-existing child support obligations or other dependent children for whom the supporting parent is responsible
- Any work-related daycare or childcare expenses paid by the parents
- Health insurance premiums paid by either parent for the child
- “Extraordinary expenses” paid on behalf of a child, which can include things like expenses for visitation-related travel or private school tuition
However, you and your attorney can argue for a deviation from the guidelines — either for more or less support — if you can establish that the guidelines don’t apply to your situation or aren’t reasonable because of your unique set of circumstances. For example, necessary expenses or a child’s special education needs might provide a valid reason for the court to set support at a different amount than prescribed by the guidelines.
In addition, the basic child support schedule established in the guideline doesn’t apply if you and your separated spouse’s combined gross income is more than $300,000 per year ($25,000 per month). In these cases, the court will exercise its judgment and set support at an amount that meets the child’s reasonable needs.
Local court rules establish how you’ll need to prove your income and the child’s monthly needs and expenses for child support purposes. In most counties in North Carolina, one or both parents must file a financial affidavit using a specific form.
Some counties also require additional documentation to verify the figures in the financial affidavit, such as pay stubs, receipts, and checkbook registers, so you should start saving any documentation of your income and expenses if you’re going through divorce proceedings or think that divorce may be a possibility in the near future.
Are Child Support Payments Fixed Forever?
Regardless of how child support is initially set, the court always has the authority to modify a child support arrangement based on a petition from either parent.
If the court established the amount of child support by order in your case, you and your attorney will need to produce evidence of a substantial change in circumstances to successfully petition for a change in that amount. For example, if the child’s needs have changed and created an increased burden or if either parent’s income has increased or decreased, a judge might decide to change the amount of court-ordered child support. Under the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, the passage of three years and a 15% or more change in the amount of support is considered a substantial change.
If you and your former spouse established the amount of support through a mutual agreement, though, the court may decide to change the amount of support in this situation even without a change in circumstances. However, the court will start with the presumption that the amount you agreed to is fair, and you and your attorney have the burden to produce evidence which shows that the amount of support in the agreement is unreasonable.
This means that if you agreed to a child support amount that turned out not to be fair and reasonable, you should contact the legal team at Myers Law Firm right away, as we may be able to show the court that your current agreement doesn’t meet your child’s needs and help you successfully petition for a change.
Contact Myers Law Firm for Help with Child Support
At Myers Law Firm, we understand that the end of a marriage is never an easy time for either spouse, so we approach every case with compassion and understanding to search for solutions. While we excel at respectful negotiation and will work to find common ground with the other side, we are ready to stand up in court and fight for your rights with an aggressive approach if that’s what it takes.
The attorneys at Myers Law Firm have experience handling all of the major family law issues that surround the end of a marriage, including alimony, child custody, child support, property division, and divorce. We’re here if you need help. To get in touch with us, call our offices at 888-376-2889 or fill out our online contact form.