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Child Support in North Carolina


Who pays child support and how much?


Child support in North Carolina is a shared obligation of both parents and is determined by calculating the monthly incomes of both parties in relation to the amount of overnight time the child or children spend with each parent on an annual basis.  There are statutory guidelines that determine the presumptive amount necessary for the reasonable needs of a child or children.  The North Carolina proposed monthly basic child support obligations can be found here,  However, there are other factors that must be considered to determine the presumptive amount of child support. 


What does child support money go towards?


Child support payments go towards meeting the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance. 


Can I (or my spouse/partner) be required to pay more or less than the basic child support guideline amount?


A party (or the court) may request a deviation from the basic support guidelines, and after a hearing producing evidence, if the court finds that the basic child support obligation is not enough or is more than enough to meet the reasonable needs of the child or children, and that the result would be unjust, the court may deviate from the presumptive amount.


What if my spouse/partner and I agree on an amount of child support that is different from the basic child support guidelines?


Parties are permitted to agree upon each parent’s respective support obligations.  Many people choose to execute a separation agreement that addresses these issues.  If a valid separation agreement is executed that determines a child support obligation, and a claim for child support is later filed between the parties, the court must base the amount of support provided under the separation agreement not the amount stated under the child support guidelines.  This rule does not apply if the court determines that the amount of child support agreed upon was unreasonable.  Therefore, it is essential for a party considering entering into a separation agreement to consult an attorney prior to executing any legal agreement.  Failure to do so may prevent you from fully asserting such claims in the future.


What if my spouse/partner refuses to work and financially contribute to our children?


If your spouse is not paying child support because he or she is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, and avoiding or minimizing their support obligation, the court may impute income for that party.  That means that party’s support obligation may be calculated based on what they could earn or their potential income rather than their actual earnings.  However, if your spouse is physically or mentally incapacitated or is caring for a child who is under the age of three years, income may not be imputed.


What if I have a judgment of child support and my spouse/partner still refuses to pay?


There are legal consequences for willful failure to pay child support, including being held in civil or criminal contempt of court and even being sentenced to serve jail time.  However, the party who is accused of nonpayment must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard before the court.  Therefore, the party who is not receiving the support must file legal action and put the nonpaying party on notice.  This can be done through Child Support Enforcement, or in Family Court.


After proper procedure is followed, there are several methods by which a party can enforce a child support judgment.  They include, court action resulting in jail time, wage withholding, interception of tax refunds, professional or occupational license revocation, and in some cases, even levying of bank accounts, and property, among other methods.


Many of these enforcement methods also apply to child support arrearages, or past due support.  Check with your attorney as North Carolina has a ten year statute of limitations on past due judgments which may bar recovery.  N.C.G.S. § 1-47. 


Legal Disclaimer:

All legal summaries contained, herein, are intended for educational purposes only and not intended to act as a substitute for personalized legal advice by competent counsel.  Although every attempt has been made to provide accurate legal summaries, the law continues to change and the most recent changes to the law may not be reflected herein.   Always consult an attorney for up to date and personalized legal advice.


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