Everything You Need to Know About Child Support in the State of North Carolina
Parents usually settle North Carolina child support cases by agreement. In most cases, parents come to an agreement based on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines provide instructions for families with incomes of less than $300,000 per year.
Calculating Child Support
When support is calculated the following are considered: each parent’s income, any IRAs, and stock options. If child support is not paid as ordered the court has the right to hold a child support obligor in contempt for not paying. The contempt statutes offer insight into what is deemed contempt in North Carolina.
In unusual situations, grandparents may be required to pay child support.
Settling Child Support Matters in North Carolina
Separation agreements made out of court can settle child support. Chapter 50 of the North Carolina General Statutes provides a number of provisions, which govern child support.
The statutes allocate who may bring an action for child support; who is responsible for its payment, and how quickly a child support case can be heard.
How Child Support Actions Are Filed:
A child support action may be filed as a separate civil action in North Carolina, or it could be connected with:
Child support may be settled by private agreement, avoiding the need of going to court unless a party needs the assistance of the court in enforcing the agreement. An action for child support (either an initial declaration or modification) has to be brought in the county where the child or parent lives or in the county where the child is physically present.
Forms of Child Support
Child support can take different forms including property transfers and cash payments. Cash payment is the most common method of child support. Child Support payments are made monthly, or sometimes in weekly installments. The custodial parent is paid child support by the non-custodial parent or by “any other proper person, agency, organization or institution, or to the court for the benefit of the child.” The party who has custody or, under a court order, the clerk of court may receive the child custody payments.
If the clerk of court receives the payments, they are then forwarded to the custodial parent. Complaints, counterclaims, or motions in the cause for child support must contain the following pertinent information:
- Identity of the parties and their residences
- Identity of the children involved
- Children dates of birth and residences
- The existing custody situation, and, if custody is also being sought after, the jurisdictional facts required by the relevant provisions of the UCCJA
Additional Allegations in a Child Support Claim
Other allegations may address the following:
- The non-custodial parent’s ability to provide support
- The custodial parent’s need for the marital residence in order to house the child
- The need for an award of legal fees.
Under North Carolina child support law, the custodial parent may request attorney fees if they are reasonable, the claim is for child support only, the party is acting in good faith and has inadequate funds to pay for the lawsuit, and the party ordered to give support has refused to give support which is sufficient under the circumstances existing at the time the suit was instituted.
The Court’s Evaluation of Claims
When evaluating whether the non-custodial parent has neglected to provide adequate support, the court takes into consideration the reasonable living expenses of the custodial parent, the minor’s former and present expenses, and, if appropriate, the support the non-custodial parent has already provided.
For the court to evaluate the reasonableness of attorney fees there has to be evidence of “the nature and scope of the legal services, the skill and time required, and the relationship between the fees customary in such a case and those requested.”
Financial Affidavits regarding Child Support Claims
The local rules of court will decide whether one or both parties will be required to complete a financial affidavit to determine the minor’s monthly needs and expenses.
For example, some counties require the affidavit to be filed several days ahead of the scheduled court date while also being served to the opposing party.
Having checkbook registers and receipts available in court can be beneficial to provide verification of the figures included on your financial affidavit. Certain counties also require that recent pay stubs be included to the financial affidavit to verify income.
The financial affidavit must include the allocation of the needs and expenses of the custodial parent and the minors. A fixed percentage can be used to allocate the expenses unless there is proof that such a division is difficult.
It must be noted when the custodial parent remarries or lives with other third parties, he or she may not total the expenses for all present in the home and then allocate a pro-rata share to the minor.
Reasonable Expenses of Each Parent
It is important to note present reasonable expenses of each parent take into account real or already planned expenditures. Expenses that haven’t been already paid and not planned for will be viewed suspiciously.
Simply put, do not exaggerate the expense items on the affidavit.
Hearings on Child Support
Even though most parties reach an agreement on child support outside the courtroom, either party may request a hearing on child support when they cannot agree on an amount, when the parties’ combined adjusted gross income is more than $200,000 per year, or if one party is equipped with other facts that suggest that deviation from the Guidelines is suitable.
The evidence at the hearing has to address the parties’ income and expenses, the reasonable needs of the minor, each parent’s capability to pay child support and the foundation for requesting a variance from the Guidelines when there is a motion for deviation.
The court is mandated to make findings related to the reasonable needs of the minor and the ability of the parents to pay child support. Also, if the court differs from the amount set down by the Guidelines, the court must make findings to justify the variance.
Deviation from the Guidelines
When certain parties want a deviation from the Guidelines, there must be evidence supporting this variance. The court will consider the following:
- Unusual necessary expenses
- Non-traditional forms of support
- Children who fall under special education provisions
- Abnormal visitation schedules
- Additional demonstrable factors affecting the amount owed
A deviation can be regulated in an amount higher than the guideline amount of child support. Upward deviation normally happens in wealthy families and/or in households where the minors have unusual needs.
Situations may also warrant a downward deviation where the amount is lower than the guideline amount. This typically occurs when either the custodial parent does not need the full guideline amount to meet the reasonable needs of the minor child or when the non-custodial cannot pay the amount ordered by application of the straight Guidelines. Child support is terminated in the state of North Carolina when the minor turns eighteen years of age. However, there are two important exceptions to this rule for child support orders entered on or after October 1, 1993.
- Sometimes minors are emancipated before the age of 18 and thus, payments are terminated at that particular time; and,
- “[I]f the child is still in primary or secondary school when the child reaches 18, support payments shall continue until the child graduates, otherwise ceases to attend school on a regular basis, fails to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation, or reaches age 20, whichever comes first, unless the court in its discretion orders that payments cease at age 18 or prior to high school graduation.”
Another exception to the rule against post-minority support pertains to a child who is not capable of self-support. In this case, the obligation of child support will continue until the child is no longer mentally or physically unable to support himself/herself.