Common Questions About Child Support in North Carolina
As is true with many aspects of divorce, the topic of child custody and support can become quite complex. Parents want to do what is best for their children, but may not always agree on how to go about achieving those objectives. Often, they get so entangled in their own divorce or separation, that child support seems more of a burden than a parental responsibility. Yet each parent does have a financial obligation to help support their children and contribute to their upbringing.
If you are currently going through a separation or divorce and want to know whether you may be eligible to receive child support, how it is determined, or which of you will have to pay, we have compiled general answers to these and other common questions about child support in North Carolina.
No, you cannot. Child custody and child support are not related in the eyes of the law, so attempting to withhold one in an effort to enforce the other is not allowed. A child support agreement is generally worked out as part of a divorce settlement, or determined by court order. Even if your ex-spouse refuses to honor your visitation rights, you will still need to continue making child support payments as per what was ordered by the court.
Failure to make timely payments could result in you being charged with contempt of court, facing legal action for breach of contract, and ultimately having your wages garnished and other legal and financial problems. Unless life circumstances have made it necessary to seek a modification of the original child support agreement, you must continue to pay on time and in full.
Child support is often determined as part of a settlement agreement, however the state does allow a request for child support to be filed as a separate civil action. Child support requests can also be combined with an annulment or a request for alimony without divorce.
In most cases, child support payments will continue until your child reaches the age of 18. If your child becomes emancipated, payments may be terminated at that time. Sometimes a child may still be in high school when he or she turns 18, in which case, the court may order payments to continue until the child’s graduation.
Each child support agreement is different, as are each child’s needs. Depending on your individual circumstances, your child support payments will likely help cover food, clothing, shelter, childcare costs, health insurance, transportation, entertainment, extracurricular activities and other expenses related to the child’s wellbeing.
If your child has specific educational needs, child support payments may also include funds to cover the expensive of a private or specialized school. Parents can also negotiate child support agreements which will cover life insurance in the event the parent paying support dies, cost-of-living increases, support beyond the age of 18, or college education, if they so wish.
State guidelines are very specific in dictating how child support is to be determined and awarded. The child’s best interests are always the most important factor. When parents have joint or shared custody of their children, child support may be requested by and awarded to one parent, so long as it is warranted. Each parent’s income, current living arrangements, and contributions toward health insurance, childcare costs and other expenses will be taken into consideration. In some instances, neither parent will have to pay child support.
Child support payments are determined based on a number of very specific factors as laid out in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The court will considers factors such as whether you have sole, joint or split custody, how much both you and your ex-spouse make, if you have other dependent children, the cost of insurance and what child-related expenses each is already covering. Should your child have a disability or medical condition requiring special attention, this may also factor into the determination of child support.
Although every case is different, if you are wondering about the child support payment you may be likely to receive – or be responsible for paying – we have created a child support calculator that can help give you a general estimate of payments.