Family: Child Support
Authored By: Legal Aid of North Carolina
In North Carolina parents have an obligation to pay child support for children who do not live with them. The amount of child support paid is determined by the North Carolina child support guidelines. It is based on each parent’s income.
Many times parents reach an agreement about the amount of child support to pay. If parents cannot reach an agreement then they can go to court and request for the court to enter an order for support.
Each county has a Child Support Enforcement Office. They can help to establish a court support order or enforce existing support orders. If you receive public assistance for your children, the service of the child support enforcement agency is free; otherwise, there is a small fee. If you cannot afford an attorney, the Child Support Enforcement Office can help you establish or enforce child support.
If the mother/father of your child or children is obligated to pay child support under an order of the court and fails to make the payments, the Child Support Enforcement Office can help collect the support payments.
The parent who fails to pay child support under an order of the court can be found in contempt of court and may be sentenced to jail for up to 30 days. Other penalties may be imposed such as garnishment of wages. You can request for the court to garnish or withhold part of the wages for child support. Garnishment requires a court order and will be allowed only if there is a child support order in place and it has been violated.
Child support can be increased or reduced by the court. Either parent can request for the court to increase or reduce the amount of support. For example, a parent who has lost his/her job may ask the court to reduce the support payments.
A parent unable to pay the amount established by court order must go to court and ask for the support order to be changed. Any change in a court order without court approval may result in contempt of court.
In addition to both parent’s incomes a child support obligation will consider medical expenses, medical insurance, and child care expenses.
Child support also is different if the parents share custody of one child or have more than one child and each parent has at least one child. These situations are also dealt with by the court or by agreement between the parents.
Child support usually ends at 18, but it will continue if the child is still in high school as long as the child is not 20 years old. The parties can agree to a higher age for termination of child support.
Child Support and Custody
It is not necessary to have a custody order to get a child support order.
Child Support and Visitation
The obligation to pay support is not connected to the right to visit a child. A parent cannot deny visitation to a parent that fails to pay child support. Equally, the parent who is denied visitation cannot withhold the child’s support.
To find other Legal Aid of North Carolina materials, including any materials mentioned in this document, go to http://www.lawhelpnc.org/. If you need legal help please go to https://www.legalaidnc.org/.