Child Support Questions and Answers
Child support can be simple or complicated depending on your particular circumstances. Below we answer some of the top child support questions we have been asked over the years. We hope the answers to your support questions, and learning about the child support laws provides you some insight into how our courts require parents to provide for their children.
1. How is Child Support Calculated?
Child support in NC is calculated by using the formula or by using the children’s reasonable expenses. Typically, support depends on each parent’s income (and, to some extent, expenses), the age of the children, and how many children are involved. You can find child support calculators online and we have one on our website. In North Carolina, support is calculated by a formula. Once you determine if you are on Worksheet A, B, or C (or off Guideline), it’s a simple matter of inputting the numbers and seeing the results of the formula.
2. What is the difference between NC Child Support Worksheet A, Worksheet B, and Worksheet C?
NC child support laws provide the method for calculating support. The amount of support paid to provide for your children is based on three potential custody arrangements: Sole custody, joint custody, and split custody.
Sole or Primary Custody Child Support
If the non-custodial parent has the child for fewer than 123 overnights each year (days don’t matter – just nights), then the custodial parent has “sole” or primary custody and support should be calculated using Worksheet A.
Shared or Joint Custody Child Support
If the non-custodial parent has the child for at least 123 nights each year, then custody is “joint” and support should be calculated using Worksheet B.
Split Custody Child Support
As you may expect, Worksheet A generally requires more child support than Worksheet B. In a case where a family has more than one child and the parents share custody of one or more of the children but one of the parents has full custody of one or more of the children as well, Worksheet C should be used.
3. What does it mean for child support to be “off-guideline?”
If the combined gross annual income of two parents is above $300,000.00, the income is too high to use one of the worksheets. The Court will use the parents’ income and the children’s expenses to determine the standard of living for the children. Often, the best way to resolve child support in these cases is outside of court, but if the parties cannot decide, the Court will determine child support based on what is justified under the circumstances.
4. Do I really need an attorney for child support?
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to calculate a formula to resolve all issues. As with every aspect of the law, there is the “black letter law” as written on paper, and then there is the reality. The difficulty is in the details. What exactly is income? What expenses are reasonable? What if you think they’re overstated? For example, there are four adjustments that can have an impact on the amount of child support owed by a parent: preexisting child support obligations and/or financial responsibility for other children, payments for health insurance, work-related child care costs (daycare), and extraordinary expenses for a child’s medical bills, education, transportation etc. Calculating each of these things and showing the information to the Court can be highly nuanced and very demanding. Attorneys have done this again and again and have the experience to know what can be done in your case to best ensure your children are taken care of.
5. When can my child support change?
The most simple answer is when the Court permits or requires it to change. If your income increases, your child support does not necessarily increase. You have no obligation to let the Court, or your ex, know about the change in income. If your income decreases and it makes paying support difficult or impossible, you should contact an attorney to get some help filing a Motion to Modify Child Support.
What if you receive child support? If at some point, the child’s needs increase OR your ability to support your child decreases, you should speak to an attorney about filing a Motion to Modify Child Support.
What if the Court has not ordered child support? If the payments were ONLY voluntary and have been only voluntary, you are not obligated to do anything. You can stop paying child support, decrease what you’re paying or increase it at will. Do be aware that your child’s other parent may need those funds for your child’s care and eliminating voluntary support can often spur someone to file an action with the Court. Sometimes, Child Support is done in an agreement that is just a contract between the parties. In that case, the contract rules. If either party fails to abide by any part of the contract, they are in breach. If someone breaches a contract, the Court can make a person fix their breach and can penalize the person who breached. However, there is no garnishment or law enforcement action that can be brought for breach of contract.
6. Why can child support change?
In North Carolina, courts apply two standards to determine child support modifications, depending on whether child support is being paid because of a separation agreement or a court order. If child support was set in a separation agreement, the standard for “modification” requires that the person requesting the modification show the amount of support necessary to meet the reasonable needs of the child at the time of the hearing. While the amount which the parties have agreed on is presumed to be reasonable, it only gives some evidence of the amount necessary. Basically, the court can overwrite a prior settlement, even if the parties deemed the amount to be fair. The previously agreed upon level of support is one factor, out of many, considered at a hearing. It is much harder to modify a court order. To do so, the party must show “substantial and material” changes to circumstances. This makes it much harder to change child support. The court can consider changes only since the most recent order. A court considers, once again, the reasonable needs of the child, each parent’s relative ability to pay, and all the other financial factors taken into account under the Guidelines.
7. Not paying child support. Can I revoke visitation?
Although it may seem logical on some level that your ex should not be permitted to visit with your child if she has failed to pay child support, the law does not permit you to withhold visitation. If you are not receiving child support as you should, you cannot bar your child’s other parent from exercising visitation rights. Just as your child’s other parent cannot pay more money to get more time, paying less does not provide justification for your allowing less time.
8. What information do I need to provide to my attorney?
Generally, you should plan to provide your attorney with what they ask for. Every attorney is different and will want to see different things. Your attorney will most certainly need paystubs (plan on at least three months) and may need you to complete a Financial Affidavit.
9. What is a Financial Affidavit?
A Financial Affidavit is a form required by many courts in their local rules. The form states the child’s monthly needs and expenses. In some counties, the financial affidavit must be filed several days in advance of the court date as well as being given the opposing party. Because these can be due as early as the date the request for child support is filed, you should have helpful documents ready as soon as possible. These would be checkbook registers and receipts, bank statements, credit cards statements, check stubs, etc. You should also ensure these are available in court to provide verification of the figures inserted on your financial affidavit.
10. Who pays taxes on Child Support?
The person who receives child support does not have to pay taxes on it. It is also not a tax deduction for the person paying it. As noted in Internal Revenue Code section 71(c), child support includes payments, which, although not denominated as support for children, are reduced when something happens related to the children (or close in time to such a thing).
11. Who pays for private school or college?
The court can require a parent to contribute to paying for private school for the children and even daycare. However, the court cannot require a parent to pay for college. In NC child support terminates when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school whichever is later. For that reason, when child support is being negotiated, parents may want to come to an agreement regarding how to save and invest for college.