Child support is one of the most contested things with which an unmarried or divorced parent will ever deal. It can also be one of the most confusing aspects of parental life. Various issues can arise, such as disputes over the support amounts, or disputes over a failure to pay the support.

The North Carolina Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is available to help guide you through the process of establishing and altering child support.

North Carolina Family Law: Who Needs to Pay Child Support?

In a typical child custody arrangement, the parent that the child stays with is called the “custodial parent”. The parent that does not have custody is often called the “non-custodial parent”. Each parent has their own set of rights, which is determined by federal, state, and local laws.

Generally speaking, the non-custodial parent is required to pay the other parent child support in order to help ease the financial burden of raising a child. The custodial parent may have more responsibilities, expenses, and costs associated with raising the child for more of the time.

This is the main reason why child support may be required in the event of a divorce or legal separation. If custody is shared, then that is something the court will consider when calculating how much child support must be paid each month.

North Carolina Family Law: How is Child Support Calculated?

Child support calculations are complex and involve a number of determinations and factors by the court. Some of the factors that commonly go into calculating child support include:

  • Income of each parent and any of their spouses or supporting partners;
  • Family structure, i.e., whether there are any other siblings involved in the custody arrangement; 
    • In some cases, both parents may have custody of a child, in which case, the child support arrangement should reflect that as well.
  • Age and needs of the child. Including any special needs, educational or academic needs, and other costs; and 
    • Extra-curricular activities may be considered as well in some cases.
  • Ability Pay: in many cases, the non-custodial parent may have difficulties in meeting child support payments. 
    • If this has been the case, the court may consider this and readjust the child support payments. In the event that payments are still not being fulfilled, the court may take other actions to collect the payment amounts.

North Carolina Family Law: How Can I Petition for Child Support?

In North Carolina, you can file for child support through civil court or through the Division of Social Services. You also have the option to file through criminal court because both parents have a legal duty to provide for their children even before a child support order is issued. However, in order to file a criminal lawsuit without a child support order, you would have to show that the other parent is willfully not supporting the child.

Some of the information you will need when you file for child support are the names and addresses of both parents, as well as the name, date of birth, and address of the child. You will also need to inform the court as to whether one parent will have primary custody or if the custody will be shared.

North Carolina Family Law: What If I Choose to Not Pay Child Support?

You can suffer a lot of different consequences for not paying child support. The first punishment is the state taking the money directly from your paycheck, which is wage garnishment. This means your paycheck will automatically be reduced a set amount. You will not be able to decide the amount, and you cannot decide when the amount is deducted or if you can keep a full paycheck.

But if your wage garnishment is not enough, then the state will garnish the amount from your tax refund or take away personal or real property from you. You can also lose your driver’s license or be arrested.

Ultimately, if you do not pay court ordered child support, then you can be held in contempt of court and jailed. If you are unable to pay child support due to loss of job, medical expenses, or other serious life changes, then it is important to contact the court right away. Do not wait and hope that lack of child support payments will be ignored.

North Carolina Family Law: Will Not Paying Affect My Visitation?

Stopping visitation is not allowed just because you have not paid or are behind child support. The state has other ways they can enforce a child support order, so one parent cannot refuse visitation because they want to force the other parent into paying.

If you have visitation and the other parent will not let you see your child, then you can go to court and ask the judge to enforce your visitation rights. However, keep in mind that the other parent can request to modify visitation rights. Not necessarily due to lack of child support payments, but due to your financial inability/instability that could be decided to “not be in the best interest of the child.”

North Carolina Family Law: How Can I Stop Paying Child Support?

Child support generally ends at age 18. It can also end earlier if the child is emancipated before their 18th birthday. Parents can also make an agreement to end child support, but the agreement must be approved by the court.

Also, if you go from being the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent, you might not have to pay child support. No matter what option you think is right, you have to do this through the court. If you try to stop paying on your own, then you can face consequences.

Where Can I Find the Right Family Lawyer in North Carolina?

If you need child support or have been told you need to pay child support, you should meet with a North Carolina family law lawyer as soon as you can. A lawyer can help guide you through the process of getting or fighting against child support.