Child Support

Child Support is one of the most common issues faced by parents in North Carolina. In most cases, child support in North Carolina is calculated by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.

North Carolina’s child support guidelines apply as a rebuttable presumption in all legal proceedings involving the child support obligation of a parent (including orders entered in criminal and juvenile proceedings, orders entered in UIFSA proceedings, orders entered in civil domestic violence proceedings pursuant to G.S. Chapter 50B.


The guidelines do not apply to child support orders entered against step parents or other persons or agencies who are secondarily liable for child support. If a child’s parents have executed a valid, unincorporated separation agreement that determines a parent’s child support obligations and an action for child support is subsequently brought against the parent, the court must base the parent’s child support obligation on the amount of support provided under the separation.


The court upon its own motion or upon motion of a party may deviate from the guidelines.

The guidelines are intended to provide adequate awards of child support that are equitable to the child and both of the child’s parents.


Determination Of Support In Cases Involving High Combined Income

In cases in which the parents’ combined income is above $25,000 per month, the court should set support in such amount as to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance, having due regard to the estates, earning, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties, the child care and homemaker contributions of each party, and other facts of the particular case, as provided in the first sentence of G.S. 50-13.4(c).


Gross Income. “Income” means a parent’s actual gross income from any source, including but not limited to income from employment or self-employment (salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, etc.), ownership or operation of a business, partnership, or corporation, rental of property, retirement or pensions, interest, trusts, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, workers compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability pay and insurance benefits, gifts, prizes and alimony or maintenance received from persons other than the parties to the instant action.


When income is received on an irregular, non-recurring, or one-time basis, the court may average or pro-rate the income over a specified period of time or require an obligor to pay as child support a percentage of his or her non-recurring income that is equivalent to the percentage of his or her recurring income paid for child support. (2) Potential or Imputed Income. If the court finds that a parent’s voluntary unemployment or underemployment is the result of the parent’s bad faith or deliberate suppression of income to avoid or minimize his or her child support obligation, child support may be calculated based on the parent’s potential, rather than actual, income.



Frequently Asked Questions
  • Am I eligible to receive child support?Open or Close

    Usually, a parent with primary physical custody is eligible for Child support from the non-custodial parent. Child support can be initiated through consent of the parties, or through the court process where a Judge orders a reasonable amount of child support based on both parties’ incomes and the needs of the child or children. Parents of a child do not need to have been married in order to have a child support order. In addition,

  • When does child support begin?Open or Close

    Child support will begin on the date set in the Court order, or on the date of the entry of a Consent Order signed by the parties and the judge.

  • How do I receive my child support?Open or Close

    Child support can be paid directly to the parent who is entitled to the support. However, the court can also order that child support payments be made through North Carolina Child Support Centralized Collections, a division of the North Carolina Division of Social Services, who will set up an account for both the payor and payee and manage the disbursement of those funds. Your child support payments will then be received by them via direct deposit to an account designated by you or via the “ncKIDS” debit card.

  • Do I have to go to court for child support?Open or Close

    A court order is not always required for child support. The parties can mutually agree to the terms of child support and enter into a signed agreement for the support. This can be done in conjunction with your local child support enforcement office or with the assistance of a private attorney. If however, the parties are unable to agree to a reasonable amount of child support, the custodial parent can file a complaint or motion in district court for this claim. Hiring a private attorney to assist you with this process can help ensure that all pleadings are filed and served properly, that the appropriate discovery is requested from the opposing party, and that your case is heard in a timely manner.

  • How is child support calculated?Open or Close

    The calculation of child support involves the use of a formula which has certain variables. The most significant variables are each party's income, daycare expenses, the cost of medical insurance, and the living arrangements of the children. North Carolina publishes child support worksheets that are used as guidelines for determining child support obligations. These child support worksheets can be found on

  • How is child support calculated if I do not have a job?Open or Close

    If you are unemployed, the court will generally assume that you could make minimum wage. The court will then impute minimum wage as your income. If an individual does not have the present ability to work due to medical or other reasons, then the court, in its discretion, can modify the imputed minimum wage.

  • Can an order for child support be changed?Open or Close

    Typically, child support orders are valid for three years. After the three years they are subject to modification. However, child support orders can also be modified anytime by either parent, upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the prior child support enter. These changes could include a significant change in employment status or income, change in the child’s living arrangements, change in day care and/or health care needs of the child, and other extraordinary expenses.

  • Who keeps track of the payments?Open or Close

    Both parents should always keep track of their payments made and received. If your child support order was made in family court, the custodial parent may to file a motion for contempt if payments fall behind. If yours is a child support enforcement order, your local agency will be tracking the payments and will eventually file their own motion for contempt against the non-paying parent, if child support payments remain behind and arrears start to accrue.

  • When do I have to file for Child support?Open or Close

    Child support can be filed at any time.

  • How long does child support have to be paid in North Carolina?Open or Close

    Child support is available under North Carolina law until a child turns 18 years of age. If a child is otherwise emancipated prior to age 18, child support would end at that earlier age under our current law. However, if a child who has not yet, as of age 18, graduated from high school and is still enrolled in secondary school, child support will continue until age 20 or graduation from school, whichever comes first. Another exception is that if a parent has entered into a written agreement—such as a Separation Agreement -- to pay support past the age of the child’s minority. If such a contract is valid and enforceable, the post-majority obligation spelled out in the contract can be imposed by the court.

  • Can I go to jail if I do not pay my child support?Open or Close

    Yes. Once an order has been entered, any willful failure to pay can result in being held in contempt of a court order and can carry a jail sentence. If however, you are paying child support pursuant with the terms in a Separation Agreement—which is not the same thing as a court order—then your ex-spouse may sue you for breach of contract and specific performance. Unless you can show the court just cause as to why you should not be held accountable for failing to abide by terms of your Separation Agreement, the court will likely order to pay those arrears back to your spouse as well as make an award of attorney fees in her favor.

  • Does losing my job allow me to discontinue paying my child support?Open or Close

    No, losing a job does not automatically relieve you of the obligation to pay child support. Losing a job at no fault of your own, could potentially be grounds to modify a child support obligation, and it is your responsibility to immediately file a motion to modify child support based on this change of circumstance.

  • Does having another child change my previous child support obligations?Open or Close

    Having subsequent children does not automatically change child support obligations. However, a party can move the court for such a change with a showing that the a modification of the current child support obligation is warranted due to that parent’s financial responsibility for his or her natural or adopted children currently living in the home (other than those for child support was previously determined). A parent’s financial responsibility for subsequent children in his or her care is equal to the basic child support obligation for these children based upon that parent’s income. This amount is then deducted from that parent’s gross monthly income for the purposes of recalculating his or her original child support obligation. Any modification of a prior child support order can only be obtained by consent order signed by both parents and the judge or a judge’s ruling following a hearing on this matter.

  • Do I have to pay taxes on child support?Open or Close

    No. Child support, unlike alimony, is not taxable for the recipient or tax deductible for the payer.

  • Who can file a claim for attorney fees in a child support action?Open or Close

    The custodial parent may have a claim for attorney’s fees if the fees are reasonable, the action is for child support only, the party is acting in good faith and has insufficient funds to pay the lawsuit’s expenses, and the party ordered to provide support has refused to provide support which is adequate under the circumstances existing at the time the suit was instituted.

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