How Is Child Support Calculated in North Carolina?

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Child support is often a contentious topic for divorced families. As one of the most important parts of a divorce settlement, it's important to anticipate how child support will affect your situation.

Child Support Overview

In North Carolina, both parents are responsible for providing financial support for their children. This means that the parent with physical custody of their child takes care of daily necessities and meets basic needs like providing food and housing for the child while the noncustodial parent, in most cases, provides financial support through monthly payments.

Child support depends on several factors, from the number of children to the income of both parents to the terms of the custody agreement. The state has guidelines for child support, but the court may adjust the amount if necessary.

Guidelines provide a baseline for fair payment, but your children may have needs that exceed the minimum requirement. The court may require parents to share financial responsibility for education and medical expenses regardless of custody, which may fluctuate depending on their child's age and healthcare needs.

How Gross Income Affects Child Support

Parents need to calculate their gross income by using court guidelines for fair share child support payments.

Gross income may include:

  • Salary
  • Wages
  • Bonuses
  • Commissions
  • Pensions
  • Severance pay
  • Capital gains
  • Annuities
  • Trusts
  • Social Security
  • Workers' compensation
  • Unemployment or disability benefits
  • Gifts
  • Prize money
  • Alimony from previous spouses

General assistance and food benefits are not part of gross income, supplemental security income (SSI), and health insurance. For more information regarding gross income, visit here.

If the court feels that a parent can and should earn more income, they may impute income. In other words, if a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed in bad faith, the court will increase the child support obligation.

Custody & Child Support

Another factor in the child support equation is custody. Depending on your custody agreement, you may need to pay a different amount for child support. For example, if your child lives with you, the other parent may pay more in child support to meet the support obligation.

In North Carolina, parents can calculate an estimated child support amount using a series of worksheets for their specific custody arrangement.

Modifying or Challenging Child Support

In some cases, the state's guidelines do not accurately account for a family's needs and financial resources, or the current support amount needs to be adjusted to reflect changing circumstances.

If the child support amount is not appropriate for your situation, you can challenge the court for a different child support obligation. The court may ask parents to appear at a hearing to determine a more suitable amount. However, parents can request their own hearing to challenge the child support amount, where a judge will consider the evidence in their case and adjust the amount as needed.

A child support modification may be an appropriate solution for those who need to change their child support obligation due to unforeseen circumstances or income fluctuations. Parents may do so only after the court has finalized a child support amount. Modification is often necessary if a parent has lost their job or is out of work due to illness or injury. If parents do not have health insurance for their child under the current child support order, they can request a modification to secure health benefits.

Whether you are calculating, challenging, or modifying a child support agreement, you should always consult an attorney. Contact David Self Law, PLLC today.