Child support generally is resolved by an application of the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, which are adopted by the Conference of Chief District Court Judges at least once every four years. The current guidelines were adopted in 2011, so they will likely be revised sometime in 2015.
When do the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines Apply?
The guidelines apply as a rebuttable presumption in every child support case, which means that a Judge will use them in calculating the parties’ respective child custody obligations, unless one or both parties can show the court why they should not apply. It is possible to request a deviation from the Child Support Guidelines. Presently, the Guidelines are applicable to cases where the combined household incomes are less than $300,000.00 per year.
How do the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines Work?
In most cases, child support is calculated based upon the following:
1. The gross monthly income of each parent
2. The monthly cost of work-related child care; and
3. The monthly cost of health insurance benefits for the children. Health insurance benefits include vision and dental insurance.
What About Extraordinary Expenses?
The court may consider extraordinary expenses which are defined in the Guidelines as including (1) uninsured medical expenses in excess of $250.00 per year; (2) medical expenses for costs that are reasonably necessary for orthodontia, dental treatments, asthma treatments, physical therapy and any insured chronic health problem; (3) expense for attending any special or private elementary or secondary school to meet the particular educational needs of a child; or (4) transportation expenses for the child to travel between the parents’ homes.
The Judge will generally require the parents to share uninsured medical and dental expenses in the same proportions as their respective incomes.
What Happens if the Court Finds that the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines Don’t Apply?
If the Guidelines are not applicable or if the Judge deviates from the Guidelines, the court determines child support based upon the reasonable needs of the child, taking into the account the accustomed standard of living of the family and the reasonable needs of each parent. The Judge then considers the incomes and earning abilities of the parents, and their respective abilities to contribute to the needs of the child, taking into consideration their own needs for support. This is a very unscientific process, and results often vary widely from case to case.
When Do Child Support Obligations in North Carolina Stop?
Child support is payable until the child is 18. If the child has not graduated from high school when he or she reaches 18, then the obligation continues until the child graduates from high school or stops attending school on a regular basis, whichever first occurs.
Guidelines do not require parents to contribute toward the cost of private school education, unless the child has some special educational needs which cannot be met in a public school system.
The court cannot order a parent to contribute to a child’s college education. When parents are negotiating an agreement for child support, they may address these costs.
The tax laws provide that the custodial parent is entitled to the dependency exemption of the child in connection with income tax returns unless the custodial parent waives such right. Our state courts have the discretion to require a custodial parent to give up the dependency exemption and to award it to the other parent.
What If I Need Help With Child Support?
A variety of factors can affect child support, including the number of nights each of the parties’ children spend with each parent, whether one or both parents are self-employed or own businesses, whether one or both parents receive a significant amount of “fringe benefits” from their employment, etc. It is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you have questions about child support. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation to discuss your child support needs.