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 guidelines are intended to provide adequate awards of child support that are equitable to the child and both of the child’s parents.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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 http://www.nccourts.org.
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.
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.
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.
Child support can be filed at any time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No. Child support, unlike alimony, is not taxable for the recipient or tax deductible for the payer.
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.
Family Law is an area of law that focuses on family disputes and obligations. This includes issues such as child custody, child support, divorce, property division, spousal support, domestic violence, and adoption.
It can also involve certain “heart balm actions”, more commonly known as Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation lawsuits, which are allowed in only nine states, including North Carolina. This field of law is one of the most contentious and difficult areas of law to navigate, and it is important that you seek someone who is skilled and knowledgeable in this type of practice.
Often times, the parties are able to resolve custody issues by agreement or in mediation. However, if a custody case goes to court, the judge will focus on what is in the best interests of the child in determining with whom your child will reside. This forces the court to direct its attention primarily to you and your spouse, examining your conduct in the past and in present to determine how you will parent your child in the future. The trial judge is given wide discretion in his or her determination of one parent’s fitness or the other, and appeals are very limited in this kind of litigation because courts of appeal are often unwilling to overturn a ruling by the trial judge who presided over the proceedings.
Any parent, relative, or other person, agency, organization, or institution claiming custody of a minor child may bring an action in court. Filing a complaint, counterclaim, or motion in the cause in a prior pending action are the usual methods for putting custody before the court. In disputes involving child custody and/or visitation, it is important that you have the necessary and effective tools to resolve these conflicts.
North Carolina is a “no-fault” divorce state. Neither party to the divorce is required to claim their partner is at fault for the breakdown of marriage. Accordingly, the only requirement to receive a divorce in North Carolina is that you have been a resident of the state for at least six months preceding the filing of your Complaint, and that you have been separated from your spouse for at least 12 months.
Separation occurs when one party leaves the marital residence. However, divorce is often accompanied by other issues including, but not limited to: child custody, child support, property division, and spousal support. If claims for spousal support and/or property division are not filed prior to the entry of the divorce, they are often times lost forever.
For various reasons, parents often have to relocate. As a result, custody disputes often occur and have to be resolved. If court action is needed, the court considers many issues including: the reason for the move, what benefit to the child the move will have, and what impact the move will have on the other parent’s access.
Child relocation is a complex endeavor, and it is important to have a skilled advocate to assist you in this type of action.
Property division in the state of North Carolina is referred to as equitable distribution. At any time after the parties separate, either party may file an action for equitable distribution. A final equitable distribution judgment may be rendered either before or after the parties are divorced, at the discretion of a judge. If the judgment is being entered by consent, the parties themselves can stipulate to do so prior to the divorce.
There are many factors the courts consider during an equitable distribution matter. In North Carolina Property is classified as marital, separate or divisible. Before any equitable distribution case goes to mediation or to Court, it will be necessary to identify and ascertain the values of all real and personal property, as well as debts acquired by the parties during the marriage. Further, it is important to consider the tax consequences to either party based upon the distribution of many assets.
For most parties, child support is calculated pursuant to the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. Exceptions to this are parties whose combined gross monthly income exceeds $25,000. The factors used to calculate a parent’s child support obligaton are: both parties gross monthly incomes, other children not of this relationship, health insurance costs, work-related daycare costs, and other extraordinary expenses.
In some cases, a party can seek to deviate from the guidelines. Further, if you are a business owner or an independent contractor, it is important to determine your accurate amount of gross income. In addition, child Support can be awarded retroactively, depending on certain circumstances.
Permanent Orders for Child Custody can be modified. In order to modify a child custody order, a party must show that there has been a substantial change of circumstance affect the child’s welfare since the entry of the last order. The moving party must be able to show the court that it is in the best interest of the minor child or children to change the current custody arrangement.
Similarly, a party seeking to modify a prior child support order must also show the Court that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the entry of the prior order such as a significant change in the income of one or both the parties or a change in the needs of the child. Often times, these motions go hand in hand, as any change in custody would likely lead to the need to change a prior order on child support.
Spousal Support in North Carolina is found in the form of Post Separation Support and Alimony. Post Separation Support is temporary support awarded after the parties separate and paid by the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse. Unlike Alimony, post separation support is not fault-based and is only based upon the financial needs of the parties. The amount of post separation ultimately awarded is based upon the reasonable needs and expenses of the dependent spouse and the shortfall he/or she has at the end of each month.
Alimony is a separate claim from post separation support and must be filed before your divorce is final. Unless otherwise resolved in mediation or by consent, the Court will determine how much alimony, if any, a party is entitled to after consideration of multiple factors. This is where fault comes in, and marital misconduct committed by either party is one of sixteen factors considered by the Court in an alimony case. It is important to hire a family law attorney with expertise in this area, whether you are making this claim or defending yourself against one.
Domestic Violence Protect Orders are commonly known as restraining orders. In North Carolina, you can file for a Domestic Violence Protective Order against a family member, a spouse or domestic partner, a current or former household member or a person you are dating or have dated. Some of the grounds for protective order are: a party causing or threatening to cause bodily injury to another, harassment, and/or placing a party or their family in fear of imminent bodily harm or injury.
A judge can issue an ex parte temporary order that will go into immediate effect without the respondent having a chance to present evidence or testimony. This order usually lasts about 10 days, but will not go into effect until the respondent is served with a notification. A permanent domestic violence order requires a full court hearing where both you and the respondent have the chance to present evidence and testimony.
If your spouse is having an affair with another person, you may have a claim for alienation of affections and/or criminal conversation. Criminal Conversation is a tort lawsuit against a third party who has committed adultery with someone’s spouse.
The person having the affair with your spouse does not have to know that your spouse is married to be found liable for criminal conversation. Alienation of Alienation is a tort lawsuit, involving a complaint brought by a deserted spouse against a third party alleged to be responsible for the failure of the marriage.
When a family law dispute clouds your future, you cannot afford anything less than strong and effective representation. At Johnson Law, we help people work to overcome family law problems.
At Johnson Law, all we handle are family law cases. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side to guide you through the complex legal system can significantly reduce the tension and confusion.
We will listen to your story and ask questions in order to learn about your ultimate goals. Only by understanding where you would like to end up can we develop a legal strategy to help you get there.