The attorneys at Hatcher Law Group have extensive knowledge and experience handling all levels of family financial matters, including the comprehensive review of incomes, expenses and other variables that may impact child support awards. We represent clients in matters involving initial child support determinations, modifications to a child support order, enforcements of child support obligations and more.
North Carolina Child Support Guidelines
State law requires the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines be used to calculate the child support obligation of parties with a combined adjusted gross income of $25,000 or less per month ($300,000 per year). These guidelines apply as a rebuttable presumption in all legal proceedings involving the child support obligation of a parent.
The figures that go into a child support calculation when utilizing the Guidelines include: 1) each parent’s monthly gross income, 2) the monthly cost of the child’s health insurance premiums, 3) monthly work-related childcare expenses (such as daycare or after-school care), and 4) monthly extraordinary expenses, if applicable.
The Guidelines cannot be used in cases where the parties’ combined adjusted gross income exceeds $25,000 per month ($300,000 per year). In these situations, child support is calculated based on the child’s actual needs and expenses and the parents’ respective ability to provide for those needs.
Custody Arrangements and Child Support Obligations
The Guidelines require one of three worksheets to be used when calculating child support: Worksheet A, B, or C. The applicable worksheet is determined by the custodial arrangement the parties are operating under.
Worksheet A should be used in situations where the child resides primarily with one parent (or third party) over the other parent. Primary physical custody means that the child lives with one parent for 243 nights or more per the year.
Worksheet B should be used when the parents share custody of all of the children for whom support is being determined or when one parent has primary physical custody of one or more of the children and the parents share custody of another child. Parents share custody if the child resides with each parent for at least 123 nights per the year and each parent assumes financial responsibility for the child’s expenses during the time the child lives with that parent.
Worksheet C should be used when primary physical custody of two or more children is split between the parents. Split custody refers to cases in which one parent has primary custody of at least one of the children for whom support is being determined and the other parent has primary custody of the other child or children.
Deviation from the Child Support Guidelines
Although the Guidelines are to be presumptively used in calculating child support, the presumption is rebuttable and a party may seek a deviation from the Guidelines. When seeking a deviation, the party must provide evidence regarding the reasonable needs of the child for support and the relative ability of each parent to provide support. Next, the party must convince the court by the greater weight of the evidence that application of the Guidelines would:
- Not meet the reasonable needs of the child considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support; or
- Exceed the reasonable needs of the child considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support; or
- Otherwise be unjust or inappropriate.
Modification of the Child Support Obligation
A child support order is subject to being modified or vacated at any time upon a party’s request of (i.e., filing a motion to modify child support) and proof that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred which warrants modification of the parties’ child support obligations.
In addition, the Guidelines provide for modification under certain circumstances. If a child support order has been in effect for at least three years and there is a difference of 15% or more between the amount of child support payable under the existing order and the amount of child support to be paid based on a current child support calculation, it is presumed that a substantial change of circumstances warranting modification has occurred.
You should be aware that in almost all cases, child support cannot be retroactively modified. With few exceptions, the effective date of modification will be when the motion to modify child support was filed. For this reason, it is very important that an obligor file a motion to modify child support soon after the substantial change warranting modification has occurred.
Termination of the Child Support Obligation
Although certain conditions allow for a court to terminate a child support obligation, an order directing payment of child support remains in place until the court actually enters an order modifying or terminating the obligation. Therefore, the paying party cannot simply stop paying child support on his or her own when a child ages out, or other changes occur. Rather, if a parent is paying pursuant to an order of the court, he or she should file a motion requesting the court to terminate the child support obligation and cite the appropriate reason for the termination. Failing to take these steps could result in the party being held in contempt of court for failure to pay child support.