When parents separate in North Carolina, one parent typically gains primary custody while the other pays child support in North Carolina. While parents often times file for child support during divorce, it is not the only time they can seek or dispute support orders.
Parents most often file for child support during a divorce, but that’s not the only time parents can seek support. Similarly, it’s not the only time a parent might argue that a support order is unfair.
What You Should Know about Child Support in North Carolina
Below are ten things you should know about child support, including some facts that may surprise you.
- You can avoid court – You don’t need the court to award child support. Parents can reach their own agreement on child support as part of a Separation Agreement or by filing a Voluntary Support Agreement (VSA). As the courts note, it is possible to enforce these documents once a judge signs them.
- Non-Parents Can File – Parents aren’t the only people who can file for child support. That’s right! Any person who houses and provides care for a minor child can file for child support.
- Support can extend beyond 18 – Child support doesn’t always end when the child reaches age 18. Nor does it always last until age 18. Parents must generally continue with child support for children who are over the age of 18 but still in high school but needs may end earlier if the child marries, joins the military, or becomes emancipated.
- The Minimum Payment is $50/Month – The minimum child support payment in North Carolina is currently set at $50 a month.
- Standard formula applies – Support payments most often follow a predetermined set of guidelines. These guidelines establish support payments according to both parents’ combined monthly incomes and the number of children they share. In most cases involving shared custody, support also considers how much each parent makes, respectively, and how much time their children live with them.
- The magic number for shared custody is 123 – That’s the minimum number of nights per year that the law expects children to live with any parent who has shared custody.
- Unmarried parents can seek child support – This is true even if the father’s name isn’t listed on the birth certificate. However, in these cases, it’s important to establish paternity.
- Courts allow exceptions – Courts understand that the standard guidelines don’t always work. In certain cases, parents may argue that a child needs additional support. If they back their arguments with sufficient evidence, the court may deviate from the standard guidelines.
- Modification of Child Support is possible – Parents can seek to have child support orders modified. Typically, this requires a significant change in circumstances. The law presumes that a 15% adjustment, according to the standard guidelines, would count as a “significant” change in circumstances.
- Wages can be withheld to enforce child support -The most common means to enforce child support orders is to have employers withhold salary.
Child Support Is All About Your Child
While financial and time-sharing aspects of child support can often cause stress during separation, child support can be an especially stressful part of divorce as well. However, it’s important to take a step back and remember that the guiding principle is to do what’s best for your child.
North Carolina’s child support intricacies around support can seem long and confusing. It may be hard to understand your rights amid all the various guidelines and exceptions. Moving forward requires a thorough understanding of the legal specifics and working with an experienced, compassionate attorney who focuses on what’s best for your child, so you can proceed with confidence.