North Carolina Child Support Guide
Child Support Eligibility
Child Support in North Carolina (NC) is often settled by the parents of the child by agreement based upon the child support guidelines. Individuals who need child care services must qualify on the basis of income eligibility except for certain situations in which the service is available without regard to income. However, any of the following individuals may apply for child care services:
A parent or responsible adult needing child care services. The parent or responsible adult refers to the “person or persons with whom the child lives and who has primary responsibility for the care and well-being of the child.”
A representative for the parent or responsible adult if the parent or responsible adult is incompetent or incapacitated and needs child care services.
North Carolina offers assistance in the following areas:
- Location of noncustodial parents by searching to find where the noncustodial parent lives and/or works.
- Paternity establishment for children born outside of marriage by establishing the legal father of the child.
- Establishment of support obligations by obtaining a court order for the noncustodial parent to provide support for his/her child(ren).
- Collection and distribution of support through keeping records of court ordered child support payments.
- Enforcement of support obligations by using many enforcement remedies as necessary to ensure the noncustodial parent’s compliance with the court ordered support.
Obligations of Child Support
The NC Child Support Guidelines are based on the combined gross incomes of the father and mother of the child and must be reviewed, at a minimum, every three years. The Guidelines recognize that child support is a shared obligation. The parties’ shared monetary obligation is computed by considering both parents’ gross income as though the combined income dictates certain child-rearing costs, taking into account responsibility for other children, work-related daycare, and extraordinary medical expenses attributable to the child. Fixed expenses such as rent or mortgage, automobile payments, and utilities — are not expressly used in making the child support calculation — but are implicitly accounted for, as a general matter, in the NC Guidelines amounts. Child support is a payment in an amount to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education and maintenance, etc. North Carolina law mandates that all orders for child support must require either parent to provide health insurance to cover the child(ren), if coverage is available.
Establishing Child Support Order.
Child support orders can be established in the following ways:
- A Voluntary Support Agreement (VSA) that is signed by a judge
- A civil court action, brought by the custodial parent, an organization, or the guardian of a dependent child
- A Criminal Abandonment and Non-Support court action
- A divorce order that includes child support
Establishing paternity identifies the legal father of a child, which ensures certain rights for the child and access to the father’s medical information and benefits. Also a child support order cannot be established for a child born out of wedlock unless the alleged father acknowledges paternity or is proven to be the father through genetic testing. Paternity can be established in the following ways:
- Voluntary acknowledgement process – Both the mother and father complete a form known as an Affidavit of Parentage; this document becomes a legal finding of paternity.
- Civil or criminal paternity action – A court of law establishes the paternity of the child, and in most cases, a child support order is entered.
Paternity Determination Without the Court
When the child’s parents are unmarried and want to legally establish paternity they can do so in court or they can complete an Affidavit of Paternity. The Affidavit of Paternity is a simple way for unmarried parents to establish paternity for their child. When the natural mother and biological father sign an Affidavit of Parentage, the affidavit is filed with N.C. Vital Records. The father’s signature on the affidavit gives permission for his name to be entered on the birth certificate for a child born in North Carolina. Once paternity is established, an order for financial and/or medical support can be obtained either voluntarily or by court order.
Disputed Paternity – Genetic Testing
If a parent does not agree that the child is theirs, a genetic test must be done. If there are any doubts about who is the father of the child, neither party should sign an Affidavit of Parentage. Either parent can request genetic testing to assist in determining the father of the child. The natural mother, alleged father, and the child have blood/tissue taken by a nurse or phlebotomist. The procedure can take place in the local CSS office or a testing laboratory. Identification is required, and individuals being tested are photographed to verify the donors. Paternity should be established through the courts once genetic testing determines the father.
Child Support Guidelines
All child support obligations established by North Carolina Courts are calculated as monthly obligations based on the Payor and Payee’s Combined Monthly Net Income. The guidelines are intended to provide adequate awards of child support that are equitable to the child and both of the child’s parents. North Carolina’s guidelines apply as a rebuttable presumption in all legal proceedings involving the child support obligation of a parent.
If a child’s parents have executed a valid, unincorporated separation agreement that determines a parent’s child support obligations and an action for child support is subsequently brought against the parent, the court must base the parent’s child support obligation on the amount of support provided under the separation agreement rather than the amount of support payable under the child support guidelines. The guidelines must be used when the court enters a temporary or permanent child support order in a non-contested case or a contested hearing. The court upon its own motion or upon motion of a party may deviate from the guidelines and if this happens, the court must make written findings supporting the court’s conclusion and stating the basis on which the court determined the amount of child support ordered.
Modification of Child Support Amount
Federal regulations require review of any order when financial assistance and some types of medical assistance are being provided for the child(ren), if any of the following apply:
– It has been three years since your order was issued or modified.
– The financial situation of either party has changed significantly since your order was issued or modified.
– Medical support was not included in your order and the child(ren) do not have health insurance other than Medicaid, or an adjustment to the medical support order would assure that the child(ren)’s health care needs be better addressed.
Child support orders are automatically reviewed every three (3) years, if the family is receiving public assistance. Other orders that are enforced through CSS can be reviewed when either parent requests a review if a substantial change in circumstances occurs. For example, in a proceeding to modify the amount of child support, a difference of 15% or more between the amount of child support payable under the existing order and the amount resulting from application of the guidelines is presumed to constitute a “substantial change of circumstances” warranting modification of the existing child support order.
Locating Non-custodial Parents
You have the right to get support for your child. However, you may not know where to find the other parent or your former partner may not acknowledge that he is the parent of your child. NC has many tools available to find the non-custodial parent. You can help locate a non-custodial parent by giving as much information as possible to your child support worker.
Enforcement of Child Support Obligations
Successful enforcement depends on the quality of the information available. Most child support payments are paid through income assignment where a portion of the payor’s paycheck is withheld and sent to the state disbursing agency.
Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. sections 651-667, created a federal child support enforcement program which mandates that every state adopt a plan meeting certain standards for the collection of child support. NC has instituted its own child support enforcement program under the Department of Human Resources (“DHR”). Local units operating under the auspices of DHR, are generally found within the county department of social services, and bring child support actions primarily for AFDC recipients. However, individuals who do not receive AFDC, may get the same help upon application and the payment of a nominal application fee.
NC also has a number of provisions governing child support and designating who may bring an action for child support; who can be held responsible for its payment; and how soon a child support case should be heard. A child support action may be filed as a separate civil action in North Carolina, or it may be joined with an action for annulment, absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board, or alimony without divorce. Child support can also be settled out of court in the form of a separation agreement.
Once a child support obligation is determined and a court order established, appropriate enforcement actions are mandatory when the noncustodial parent is not complying with the court order. When child support is not paid as ordered, the court has the authority to hold a child support obligor in contempt for nonpayment. Additional remedies used to enforce a child support order are:
- Court action resulting in jail time
- Interception of tax refunds Consumer credit reporting
- Passport denial/ revocation
- Liens – A lien is a hold placed on property to ensure that child support payments are made.
- Driver, professional/occupational, or wildlife license revocation
- Levying financial institution (bank) accounts.
Military Service Modification of Child Support
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
If you are called to active duty, you are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), formerly called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act. The purpose of the SCRA is to allow United States military personnel to devote their full attention to the defense of our nation by temporarily suspending judicial and administrative civil proceedings that may impact their rights. In some instances, your military service activation may make you eligible for a change in your child support order during your time of service. If you feel that you qualify, you may ask the court to modify your order by filing a motion to modify.
North Carolina Financial Assistance
North Carolina has subsidized child care services that can be provided to eligible children with special needs when care is needed to support the parent’s education/training, employment, to support child protective services, the developmental needs for the child or to support child welfare services. The family of a child with special needs must meet the applicable income guidelines based on the reason care is needed.
North Carolina Child Support Resource Line:
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general child support law guidelines in North Carolina and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to
About The Children.
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
Read more at AboutTheChildren.org