Child support disputes are some of the most common issues in family law cases, regardless of whether the parents are going through divorce or never married. Child support payments in North Carolina are based upon custody categories and an income-sharing method derived from the gross income of both parents. Child support actions may be joined with actions for annulment, absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board, and alimony without divorce, or initiated as a separate civil action.
As with child custody, child support can also be settled by private agreement. Most parties choose this route to avoid the expense and uncertainty of going to court. Additionally, child support can be agreed upon through a separation agreement. Because a separation agreement is a contract, the parties may agree for a parent to assume child support obligations greater than the child support guidelines. However, this does not mean that the court cannot order a different amount of child support in order to protect a child’s interest.
For families with incomes of less than $300,000 per year, the payments are based upon the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. When combined income exceeds the $300,000 cap, parents can either negotiate themselves or let the court decide what constitutes appropriate child support based on the reasonable needs of both parties.
- Gross income includes income from all sources, such as:
- Salaries, wages, commissions, royalties, bonuses, dividends, and severance pay;
- Social security benefits;
- Pensions, trust accounts, annuities, capital gains, and interest;
- Spousal support from third parties;
- Rental Income;
- Unemployment benefits;
- Disability benefits; and
- Workers’compensation benefits;
Parties can deviate from the guidelines under certain circumstances. Child support is generally increased in families with greater means or when there is a special-needs child. Child support payments may be decreased when the custodial parent does not require the full guideline amount to meet the child’s reasonable needs. Payments can also be decreased when the non-custodial parent does not have the financial ability to make the guideline payments
The obligor party must regularly make the ordered child support payments. Failure to make those payments and remain current can expose the party to significant penalties. The Child Support Enforcement Agency has the power to take away driver’s licenses, recreational licenses, professional or business licenses, intercept income tax refunds, or even place the person in jail.
The custodial parent may be entitled to have their attorney’s fees in child support actions if the fees are reasonable, the party is acting in good faith with insufficient funds to pay the expenses, and the party ordered to provide support has refused adequate support at the time the suit was instituted. In determining whether the non-custodial parent has refused to provide sufficient support, the
- Reasonable living expenses of the custodial parent;
- Child’s past and present expenses; and
- Amount of support the non-custodial parent has provided.
After child support is ordered, either parents can request a change under certain circumstances. There are two different standards when determining a child support modification dependent on whether the original child support order was embodied in a separation agreement or in a court order. If it was in a separation agreement, the moving party has to show the amount of support necessary to meet reasonable needs is not present. If the child support order was through the court, the moving party must show a substantial and material change of circumstance. This is a more difficult burden.
The family law attorneys at Maginnis Law, PLLC are familiar with the complex issues of North Carolina child support laws. If we are unable to reach an acceptable agreement outside of court, we will vigorously protect your rights in court.
For child support or other family law issues, contact Wake County Family Lawyer Karl S. Gwaltney at 919.960.1545 or send a confidential email inquiry using our contact page. Maginnis Law, PLLC is a Raleigh, NC law firm accepting child custody and other family law cases from Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Durham, Morrisville, Clayton, Wake Forest, and throughout the Research Triangle areas.