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Child Support

As if going through a divorce is not difficult in and of itself, North Carolina’s child support rules are complicated. Not only can the state’s child support obligations be overwhelming, but they are also constantly changing. Nonetheless, if you fail to make timely child support payments, or any payments at all, it can cause you to be found to be in contempt of court and even cause a warrant to be issued for your arrest. If you are responsible for child support payments in North Carolina, you want to make sure your obligations are both fair and properly handled. Consequently, you should have an experienced North Carolina family law attorney helping guide you through this complex process so that you can have peace of mind.

Child Support Guidelines

There are many factors that must be considered to help determine child support obligations that are due by a parent according to North Carolina’s Child Support Guidelines. These factors include the cost of childcare, the father’s income, the mother’s income, and the cost of the child’s healthcare. Beyond these factors, North Carolina courts may consider other financial resources of the parents such as rental property income, inheritances, social security, pensions, investments, disability, bonuses, unemployment benefits, and veteran benefits. Courts may also consider services provided by family members or friends of the parents.

Child Support Enforcement

While there is a federal, Nationwide Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program, North Carolina established its own CSE through the state legislature. North Carolina’s CSE program authorizes the means by which child support payments may be obtained and enforced. The initial process begins when a North Carolina family court enters an order requiring a party to make child support payments. The amount of payments due by the parent may be based on the state’s guidelines or based on an agreement made between the former spouses. Generally, child support payment calculations are enforced as part of a judgement. Alternatively, if the parents of the child were never married, the custodial parent may petition the court for child support.

Delinquent Child Support

Not surprisingly, failure to make child support payments is not taken lightly by North Carolina courts. Consequences for parents who owe child support and refuse to make payments, are unable to pay, make late payments, or pay less than the amount required include facing contempt proceedings, monetary fines, or jail time. The most common method used for enforcing child support payments is contempt proceedings, which can cause a parent to serve time in jail until he or she has satisfied any outstanding balance. Another method the court uses to enforce child support is to garnish the wages of the parent who is delinquent. This is possible because federal law requires all employers to participate in a national register, allowing the courts to be able to access and withhold funds from a parent’s paycheck no matter what state they are in.

Additionally, the law governing child support cases -- the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) -- allows the court that issued the initial child support order to retain complete and exclusive jurisdiction over the paying parent no matter where he or she moves in the country. Finally, several federal laws make refusal to make child support payments a crime, resulting in fines or jail time for violations.

Modifying Child Support

Child support obligations may be temporary or permanent. Oftentimes, child support obligation requirements can change based on the parents’ and child’s circumstances. Either parent -- whether making child support payments or receiving child support payments -- may petition the court for a modification in the amount. The court typically requires a substantial change in circumstances in the parent’s ability to make payments or the child’s financial needs. Some examples of a substantial change in circumstances include illness, remarriage, employment changes, education, and cost of living. The most common reasons why parents seek a change or modification in child support payments include changes in employment and/or remarriage.

Child Support Legal Help

The law takes a strong stance when it comes to child support in North Carolina. This is no surprise, as the stakes are high when the care of a child is at stake. If you or someone you know has questions regarding child support obligations, whether you are making payments or receiving payments, contact an experienced North Carolina family law attorney. The knowledgeable attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can explain your rights and obligations under the law. Do not leave this important issue that affects the care of your child to chance, contact us today.