At Bell, Davis & Pitt, our attorneys recognize that the care and support of minor children is likely the most important issue in your case. We are dedicated to supporting you through the resolution of your custody and child support claims with compassion and understanding.
In North Carolina, the general rule is that both parents, whether natural or adoptive, have a legal obligation for the support of their minor children. Parents are primarily and jointly liable and this obligation cannot be waived, released, or contracted away by the child’s parents or caretakers. A non-custodial parent’s legal obligation to support their child is separate and independent from their right to visitation with the child.
For most families, North Carolina uses an “income shares” model of determining each parent’s support obligation, and the state has established a set of guidelines that determine an appropriate amount of support based on the combined incomes of the parties. The amount of child support depends on many factors, including the number of overnights per year each child is with each parent under the custody schedule, and which parent is paying for health insurance premiums, work-related childcare expenses, and other extraordinary expenses such as private school, travel expenses, and so forth.
In North Carolina, parents do not have a legal obligation to pay for their children’s college expenses, and a North Carolina court does not have the power to order a parent to do so as part of a child support order. However, parents can agree in a Separation Agreement or other similar document to provide for college education expenses, and such agreement can be enforced the same as any other binding contract.
Parents with high combined incomes (more than $30,000 per month under the current guidelines) will have their child support obligations determined on a case-by-case basis. If a parent is unemployed or underemployed, income may be attributed to that parent if there is a finding of “bad faith” or deliberate income suppression to avoid or minimize a support obligation.
In order to modify a court-ordered child support obligation, seeking either an increase or decrease, the party seeking the modification must show that there has been a substantial change in material circumstances since the last support obligation was determined. These changes can include:
- a substantial increase in the child’s needs,
- the loss of a job through no fault of the employee, or
- a substantial reduction in income through no fault of the employee.
Child support payments generally terminate when the child reaches the age of 18, but may continue until the age of 20 if the child is still in primary or secondary school and making sufficient progress toward graduation.