For most people, child support will be based upon the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines explain how to determine a party’s income and what expenses are factored into the child support calculation. Below are links to the current version of the Guidelines, as well as the NC Child Support Enforcement Agency website where child support can be calculated.
Health insurance for the children and work related child care expenses are considered in the child support calculation. Extraordinary expenses, such as braces, counseling and summer camps, can also be factored in if the parties agree or the Court orders. Once these amounts are put into the Guidelines formula, the parties can determine the recommended child support.
If the recommended amount of support does not meet the reasonable needs of the child or is more than the child needs, the judge can deviate from the Guidelines and enter the amount of support he or she finds to be appropriate. However, in most instances, the Child Support Guidelines will apply.
The Guidelines show the percentage difference between the mother’s and father’s income. The parties will usually divide uninsured medical expenses based upon these percentages. For instance, if husband earns $100,000/year and wife earns $50,000/year, his percentage of the total income is 66.6% and hers is 33.3%. Any uninsured medical expenses paid by the wife would be reimbursed to her by the husband with him paying two-thirds of the total.
Can the Child Support Order be Modified?
Once a child support order has been entered, it can be modified under limited circumstances. The party seeking to modify the amount of support must show to the Court that there has been a substantial change of circumstances affecting the needs and interests of the children since the entry of the prior order. Substantial changes could include a dramatic increase in the child’s needs, such as a new medical issue. It can also include the loss of a job by either spouse, provided the job loss was not intentional. The passage of three years since the entry of the order can also be a substantial change. If the Court finds that there has been a substantial change since the prior order, the Court will re-compute child support according to the Guidelines using the parties’ current information.
When does Child Support end?
Once the youngest child has graduated from high school and attained the age of 18, the child support obligation will end. There is no obligation under North Carolina law to pay for college education. However, many parties will agree to be responsible for this in their settlement. If there is an agreement to pay for college in a separation agreement or a consent order, it can be enforced by the Court.
What happens when a party fails to pay their Child Support?
If a party fails to pay court-ordered child support, the other party may file a motion to have the payor held in contempt of court. The payor will have to explain to the Court why he or she is not paying the child support. If they have a legitimate and justifiable reason, then the Judge will usually try to fashion some kind of payment plan to help the party through the problem. If, however, they do not have a valid reason for ceasing their child support payments, the Court can find that party in contempt. Jail time for contempt is not the first remedy the Court will usually impose, but it is a possibility.
If a party fails to pay child-support agreed to in a separation agreement, with no court order in place, the parent receiving child support may file suit to enforce the agreement.