Today, as promised on my last blog post and video, I will be discussing Child Support. Child support is governed by North Carolina General Statute § 50-13.4 and is available as a legal remedy to any person, parent, institution or organization that either has custody of a child or is bringing a custody action or proceeding for the custody of such child.
In my opinion, North Carolina has done a great job in taking a lot of the dispute out of child support matters because they use child support guideline worksheets that determine which party has a child support obligation to the other. The guideline worksheets, found here, use an algorithm in determining which parent pays how much in support for the minor child or children.
The reason why I stated in my custody blog post and video that custody and support are intertwined is because the number of overnights that a parent has with a child will determine what worksheet is used.
Worksheet A is used if one parent has primary physical custody of all of the children for whom support is being determined. Primary physical custody is determined if one parent has custody of a child for 243 nights or more. If you have two children and custody of one or more of the children is shared. If that ends up being the case then you would use Worksheet B.
Speaking of Worksheet B, it will be the proper worksheet for calculating child support obligations if a child lives with both parents for at least 123 nights or more during the year and each parent assumes financial responsibility for the child's expenses during the time the child lives with that parent.
There is one other Child Support Worksheet in North Carolina and it is, you guessed it, Worksheet C. Worksheet C is typically not used very often only because it is for situations where parents have multiple children and one parent has primary custody of one child for whom support is sought while the other parent has primary custody of another child or children for whom support is sought. This is called Split Custody.
So, what else goes into determining how much support a party is obliged to pay for a child or children? Good question, the guidelines also use number of children, gross monthly income of both parties, pre-existing child support payment, number of other children (for whom a party already pays child support), work related child care costs, health insurance premium costs, & extraordinary expenses (typically necessary education expenses and travel to the other parent's home to pick up the child, but a party can try to argue other expenses related to the child).
WHO CLAIMS THE CHILD(REN) AS DEPENDENT ON TAXES?
The schedule (worksheet) assumes that the parent who receives child support claims the tax exemptions for the child.
STARTING A CHILD SUPPORT ACTION
To get a child support action started you can go two routes. One way would be to file with the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) office in the county in which your child has resided for the last six months or more. You can find your (CSE) office by clicking here. This is the public branch of child support cases and they can sometimes be very busy.
The second way to start a child support action is by filing a child support complaint, summons, domestic civil action cover sheet, etc. with the family court in the county in which your child has resided for the last six months or more. You will have a filing fee of $150; however, your case will more than likely move more quickly than option one above.
WHAT HAPPENS IF CUSTODY CHANGES?
If custody changes to where you go from shared custody to primary custody and therefore go from Worksheet B to Worksheet A you can file a motion to modify child support under NCGS §50-13.7. You just have to show a substantial change in circumstances which includes, but is not limited to, change in custody overnights (worksheet change) and increase or decrease in gross monthly income by a parent or parents.
If a party to a child support action does not have income, resigns from a job for no reason other than to decrease their income for CS purposes, is terminated from their employment (due to party's behavior), or otherwise works less hours to decrease income, then the opposing party can ask the court to impute income to the party with no or lowered income. There must be a showing of bad faith by the party who's income is decreased for the court to impute income.
Imputing income basically means that the court will assign an amount of income to one party. If a party has no income, the court may decide that their gross monthly income will be minimum wage at 40 hours a week. Say the court determines that a party has intentionally decreased their hours worked or otherwise decreased their income for purposes of attempting to pay less child support (bad faith), then the amount the party was earning prior to the decrease in gross monthly income will still be attributed to them on the guidelines worksheet. That is the party's potential earning income.
I hope these basics of North Carolina Child Support laws have been helpful. I will be back again next week with a discussion on obtaining an actual divorce.