Child Support in Mooresville, North Carolina
Child support is a particularly tricky issue for those going through a divorce. First off, it’s a major adjustment. You’re going from working in close cooperation with your spouse to raise and pay for your children to handling things on your own. Your bank accounts may have previously been merged and certainly expenses associated with the kids were shared seamlessly. No one had to think about who paid for shoes or piano lessons or field trip fees, at the end of the day it all came out of the same pot of money.
Post-divorce, that is no longer the case and your mindset will need to shift as a result. Rather than pay for costs together, one parent or the other will need to be responsible for all the costs associated with raising your children. To avoid daily disputes over who pays for what, courts have created the child support system to try and make the process simpler. Under North Carolina’s guidelines, parents in Mooresville will be held responsible for making a certain contribution each month to ensure the children are properly cared for. To guarantee that this process is handled correctly, it is important to rely on the expertise of an experienced family law attorney who has been down the road before.
First, let’s start off by mentioning the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, a kind of rule book that exists to determine what parents are supposed to contribute towards the support of their children. The Guidelines make clear what factors go into calculating support obligations. These include things like the mother’s income, the father’s income, the cost of any childcare expenses as well as healthcare expenses for the children. Courts use the term "income" rather loosely, broadly interpreting the concept to encompass as many sources of money as possible. These include things like salary, bonuses, real estate income, investments, pensions, Social Security, VA benefits, unemployment benefits, inheritance and even regular cash payments from family and friends.
The idea behind this is to ensure that as much money as possible is captured for the eventual care of your children. The guidelines are designed to work for the vast majority of families, from those making very little, to those making $200,000+ a year. For high-income families, the guidelines aren’t especially helpful and child support is usually set by a judge who carefully examines your individual family situation.
The obligation to pay is one that is taken very seriously not only by the family court, but by local law enforcement. Once the court enters the order requiring a party to make child support payments, that order has the full force of law behind it and serious penalties can follow any failure to comply. Those who fail to pay according to the order face serious penalties, up to and including time behind bars. It’s important to note that a parent can be deemed out of compliance even if he or she is trying to make payments. Your obligation isn’t to come close, but to pay the full amount that has been ordered by the court. Failure to pay the full amount or to pay it on time leaves you open to being held in contempt by a judge.
After being held in contempt, parents behind on child support may find that their pay gets garnished, something that occurs when a court orders your employer to automatically direct a certain amount of money to pay debts owed. This can hit those struggling financially especially hard and make it difficult to make ends meet. It’s important to note that once you are in arrears, there’s no easy way to evade the problem, the debt will follow you. Thanks to federal measures, such as the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, child support debts can be enforced no matter where you are in the country. Simply leaving Mooresville won’t solve your problem.
The good news is that if you are genuinely struggling to make ends meet and are not able to continue making payments at the originally ordered level, there is hope. Child support obligations aren’t meant to be set in stone for eternity. They are instead designed to reflect changes in circumstances. This change is known in the family law world as a child support modification. Modification can happen in the short-term (let’s say you temporarily lost a job and need a brief reduction until your new paychecks arrive) or they can be long-term and involve a total re-calibration of support. These modification requests aren’t taken lightly and require a material change in circumstances regarding either the parents’ abilities to pay or the child’s financial needs.
What are some common examples of reasons for a child support modification? A very common justification is a change in employment, either the loss of a job or a promotion that results in vastly higher income for one parent. Remarriage is another factor, as is serious illness, recently completed education, increases in costs of living, disability, etc. Any change that leads to a substantial alteration in the existing financial balance can be enough to justify a modification of support.
Child support is a serious obligation and one that can last for years. Given the amount of money on the line, it’s crucial that the process is handled properly the first time around. If you are facing a child support issue and want to ensure that your interests are protected, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of the experienced Mooresville, NC family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today.