Child Support Laws and Child Abandonment Laws in NC
Every child is entitled to financial support from its parents, and every parent has an obligation to ensure that these needs are met.
It is recognized that child support is a shared monetary duty. Any parent, guardian or caretaker of a child for whom support is needed is entitled to apply for payments. North Carolina’s Child Support statutes are designed to provide adequate payments for the care of the child.
Child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent or “…any other proper person, agency, organization or institution, or to the court for the benefit of the child”. Under North Carolina law, a child support claim may be filed as a separate civil action, or as part of an action for annulment, absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board (separation), or alimony without divorce. The support payment may be in the form of cash or property transfers. Child support is most commonly paid via monthly or weekly installments, is not taxed to the receiver, and cannot be claimed as a tax deduction by the payer.
How to Calculate Child Support in NC
Most child support is calculated on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. Three different worksheets help to calculate child support payments. The applicable worksheet is based on the type of custody arrangement – sole, joint or split. There are also separate support guidelines for low-income and high-earnings families.
Primary factors used to determine the amount of child support include:
- the incomes and potential income of each parent (including stock options and IRAs),
- past, present and future expenses (including daycare, dental, medical, food/clothing/shelter, and education),
- extraordinary medical expenses,
- the amount of time the children spend with each parent,
- the needs of the children, and
- the child’s accustomed standard of living prior to the divorce (or separation).
The custodial parent may also be eligible to receive reasonable attorneys’ fees as part of the child support action.
Reaching a Child Support Agreement in NC
Working together, many couples are able to reach a satisfactory child support agreement. However, in some cases, a negotiated settlement is not possible. Your child support lawyer will investigate and provide evidence of facts pertaining to estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and each spouse, child care and homemaker contributions of each party, and other relevant information.
Changes in circumstances may impact the amount of child support including changes in income or residence. In North Carolina, child support usually terminates when the child reaches eighteen. However, if a child is still in primary or secondary school at 18, support payments may continue until the child graduates providing certain criteria are met. Exceptions may be made for children who are incapable of self-support.
Paternity is sometimes an issue in child support cases and occurs when an alleged father denies that he is the child’s biological parent. In these cases, genetic or DNA tests may be voluntarily taken or ordered by the court. A test score with a 95% match or higher is considered proof of paternity. Once paternity is proven, the father may owe support payments retroactive to the date when the child was born.
Child Abandonment Criminal Laws in NC
Under North Carolina criminal law, neglected and abandoned children are protected in the following ways:
- If a parent intentionally neglects or refuses to provide adequate support for his or her biological or adopted child for 6 months, that parent is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined, or imprisoned, or both.
- The parent may also be required to pay child support to the abandoned minor. Illegitimate children are protected by laws that make neglect and failure to provide support a misdemeanor.
North Carolina’s state laws are complemented by the Federal child support enforcement program which was established by Congress and requires all states to enact laws and establish procedures regarding paternity, child support payments and collection. Advanced technology, interstate cooperation and Employer New Hire Reporting Programs ensure that non-custodial parents live up to their financial responsibilities to their children.