Child Support Guidelines FAQ

The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines are promulgated as a requirement under Section 50-13.4(c1) of the North Carolina General Statutes. That statute requires the Conference of Chief District Court Judges to prescribe uniform statewide presumptive guidelines for determining the child support obligations of parents, and to review the guidelines periodically (at least once every four years) to determine whether their application results in appropriate child support orders.

Why Do We Have Guidelines?
Statewide guidelines exist to allow uniform application of child support orders throughout the state. The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure that the child support ordered will meet the reasonable needs of the child. Prior to the institution of guidelines, different counties within the state had different ways of calculating support or had no guidelines at all. Many counties based child support on a percentage of either gross or net income of the obligor spouse with a different percentage for the number of children for whom support was being paid. The guidelines make it simpler to calculate child support and provide a set and reliable means for calculating support.

Where Can I find a Copy of the Guidelines?
You can find a copy of the guidelines in the North Carolina General Statutes . You can find a copy on the “forms” page of the Administrative Office of the Court form number AOC-A-162  You can also find a copy of the guidelines on the Child Support Enforcement web site.

Can I Calculate How Much Support I Should Pay/Receive?

Yes, you can find a calculator  which will automatically provide you with the presumptive child support amount.  In order to calculate the amount of support, you will need the following information:

  • The number of children for whom support is being calculated.
  • The gross monthly income of EACH parent.
  • The amount paid for health insurance for just the children each month. [for example, some health plans will say the employee insurance is $X and employee and children is $Y you can determine how much is for the children by subtracting X from Y. If the health plan does not break down the amount for each person covered, you will divide the amount paid by the number of people on the plan and then multiply that number by the number of children. If the insurance is $400 per month and it covers the employee and three three children, the monthly premium of $400 should be divided by 4 and the resulting number multiplied by 3 because there are three children (400 ÷ 4 = 100 x 3 = $300 ) ].
  • The amount of work related child care paid by EACH party. This figure includes daycare/ preschool, costs of a nanny attributable for care while a party is working, before and after school care, summer camp for the hours the party works. It does not include babysitters for when you are going on a date or to the movies or shopping or work done by a nanny in addition to day care such as housework or cooking other than for the children while the parent is at work. Since the children will only be in camp while school is not in session and in before and after school care while school is in session, you first have to calculate how much you pay based on a year and then divide the entire amount by 12 to get a monthly amount.
    • Any extraordinary costs. This does not include normal after school sports, piano lessons, or extracurricular activities. It can include items such as (1) expenses related to special or private elementary or secondary schools to meet a child’s particular educational needs, and (2) expenses for transporting the child between the parents’ homes or a specific health care cost such as “braces”.

I see there are three different forms for Child Support, Which One Should I Use?

The directions explain which form to use but the basic rules are:

  • In determining how many “days” you have the children, the court actually counts the number of overnights you have the children. For ALL calculation’s under ALL forms count the number of overnights.
  • Use Form “A”, also known as “sole custody” if one party has the children for over two-thirds of the overnight. An example of one party having a child for more than two-thirds of the year would be an arrangement that the secondary custodian (parent with the lesser amount of time with the children) has the children every other weekend for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and for two weeks of vacation in the summer (3x 26 +14 less 3 for the days you already counted under regular visitation = 89 days)
  • Use Form “B”, also known as “shared custody” if you and the other parent both have the children at least one-third of the time, which is 122 or more days. You will need to put in the number of nights each parent has the children in the appropriate place on the form.
  • Use Form “C”, also known as “Split Custody” if each parent has one child more than two-thirds of the time. This situation is very rare. For example if Mom has one child under schedule A time and Dad has one child under schedule A time you use schedule “C” but if Dad has one child under schedule A time and Mom has one child under schedule A time, and they share another child under schedule B time, you would use schedule B not schedule C.

Why Do Both Parents Have to Enter Their Income to Calculate Child Support?
Regardless of which parent has custody of a child, both parents owe a duty to support their child. The income shares model is based on the concept that child support is a shared parental obligation and that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income he or she would have received if the child’s parents lived together. In including the gross income of both parties, the court first determines the total amount of income based on the total income of the parties would go to the support of a child. The Guidelines state, “The child support schedule that is a part of the guidelines is based on economic data which represent adjusted estimates of average total household spending for children between birth and age 18, excluding child care, health insurance, and health care costs in excess of $250 per year. Expenses incurred in the exercise of visitation are not factored into the income of both parties each party’s income represents. For example: Assume A and B have two children and support is paid under schedule “A”. If Party A earns $100,000 and Party B earns $68,000 the support will be based on an annual income of $168,000 which is $14,000 per month. You would then look on the guidelines for Schedule “A” and see that the amount of child support for two children when the parents’ income totals $14,000 per month is $2,149. Of that amount, Party A would pay 60% and Party B would pay 40%. Of course, since in our example one party has the children in their custody only the non-custodial parent will actually pay the support to the other party.

Can a Judge Deviate From the Guidelines?
Yes the guidelines allow for deviation. The courts deviate on a case by case basis and it is dependent on the evidence presented. Some examples of the court deviating include where the parties have 50/50 custody but one parent keeps the children every day after school and provides them with dinner and the other parent picks them up after dinner, or where one parent does not work and did not work during the marriage so the entire burden of support falls on the other parent. The court must state the reason for any deviation. Should a court decide to deviate from the Guidelines, its decision to deviate will not be disturbed on appeal absent a clear abuse of discretion. Sain v. Sain, 134 N.C.App. 460, 465, 517 S.E.2d 921, 926 (1999).

In making the determination to deviate from the Guidelines, the following four-step process is employed:

  1. The trial court must determine the presumptive child support amount under the Guidelines;
  2. The trial court must hear evidence as to the reasonable needs of the child for support and the relative ability of each parent to provide support;
  3. The trial court must determine, by the greater weight of this evidence, whether the presumptive support amount would not meet or would exceed the reasonable needs of the child considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support or would be otherwise unjust or inappropriate; and
  4. Following its determination that deviation is warranted, or in order to allow effective appellate review, the trial court must then enter written findings of fact showing the presumptive child support amount under the Guidelines, the reasonable needs of the child, the relative ability of each party to provide support, and the application of the Guidelines would exceed or would not meet the reasonable needs of the child or would be “otherwise unjust or inappropriate”.

What if My Spouse and I have A Written Agreement Which Includes Child Support?
The court will start with the presumption that the amount of support you and your spouse agreed to is a fair and equitable amount of support. Such an amount can be changed if the needs of the children have changed significantly such that the amount of support in the agreement will no longer meet the children’s needs and such a change was not contemplated when the agreement was entered into. For example, if a child is in a car accident and one parent has to change his or her work schedule in order to care for the child, or a parent becomes disabled and unable to earn the same income as previously earned.

Can a Court Grant Retroactive Support?
Yes, the court can go back to the date the party should have commenced paying support, but whether to allow retroactive support is within the court’s discretion. The amount can either be based on the presumptive guidelines support or on the actual expenses incurred by the custodial parent. The court will not order retroactive support if the non-custodial party is paying support as agreed upon in a Separation Agreement.

My Child’s Other Parent Refuses to Take the Support I Offer, What Should I Do?
Some parents refuse to accept support in a misguided belief that if they refuse support they can refuse visitation. Some have been told that if the other parent doesn’t support the child for a certain amount of time, the custodial parent can terminate the other party’s parental rights. Some are just trying to prove self-reliance. Some have reasons that are not readily apparent. However, the other parent’s refusal does not relieve a parent of an obligation to support the child. It is best, of course, to have such refusals in writing so that you can prove your attempt to support the child if the parent later states you have not supported the child. Even better, if you calculate what you believe the support to be and place that amount into a separate account for the child, if you are ever brought to court on the matter, not only can you show your attempts to pay, but you can actually pay the amount to the other parent for the child’s benefit. If the parent never takes support or brings you to court for support, you can use the child support fund to help pay for your child’s education or post high school living expense, or spend it any way you choose when your legal obligation ends.

What is Child Support Enforcement?
Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is a part of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services which is tasked with the determination of and collection of child support. It is required to seek support for parents who receive governmental assistance for their children. In addition, private parties can seek assistance from CSE to help them determine and collect child support from the other parent. CSE is also tasked with assisting out of state persons collect child support under an order from the court of another state as part of UIFSA (Uniform Interstate Family Support Act). You can reach an agreement for support or you can ask the court to determine the appropriate amount of support. Many times the paying parent will pay through Centralized Collections.