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Who May Seek Child Support?
Any parent or any person, agency, organization, or institution that has custody or is suing for custody can also sue for child support. A duly appointed guardian may also sue for support on behalf of a minor child.
Who Is Liable to Pay Child Support?
Unless there are special circumstances, a child’s mother and father are primarily liable for the child’s support. If either parent is an unemancipated minor, that parent’s parents share primary liability for the grandchild’s support until the parent reaches age 18. Any person, agency, organization, or institution with legal responsibility for the child is secondarily liable for the child’s support.
There is ordinarily no duty to support stepchildren. However, when the stepparent has taken responsibility for a stepchild’s support in writing, he or she may be ordered to support the stepchild. In these cases, the stepparent is only secondarily liable, and the child support guidelines do not apply.
Determining the Amount of Child Support
The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines apply to proceedings involving the support obligation of a parent. They do not apply to a stepparent or other person or organization that is secondarily liable for support. When the guidelines do not apply, the support amount is based on many factors, including the history of actual expenditures for the child’s support and the parties’ relative ability to pay.
North Carolina Child Support Guidelines
The Child Support Guidelines provide a formula to help determine the amount of child support that will be awarded in support cases involving parents. The amount specified by the guidelines is a “rebuttable presumption,” meaning that it is the amount that should be awarded unless either party can show specific evidence that the recommended amount is not appropriate. In most cases, the guideline amount will be the amount awarded. Furthermore, even in uncontested cases where the amount of child support is agreed to by the parties instead of set by a judge, a judge reviewing the agreement later (for example, in a motion to modify the amount or if the agreement is submitted as a consent order) will compare the agreed amount to the guideline amount to make sure that the agreed amount is enough to meet the child’s needs.
In cases where the guidelines apply, they are mandatory. However, because they only create a presumptive amount, deviation from that amount is allowed in some cases. Deviation is based on a showing that the guideline amount does not accurately reflect the reasonable needs of the child and the abilities of the parents to provide support. In determining the reasonable needs of the child, the court will consider the standard of living to which the child is entitled, based upon the income levels of the parents.
The child support guidelines offer three different worksheets for determining the guideline amount of child support. Worksheet A is used when the child spends at least 243 nights per year with the custodial parent. Worksheet B is used when the child spends at least 123 nights per year with each parent. Worksheet C is used when the parents split custody, meaning that each parent has custody of at least one child for whom child support is being calculated.
To see an estimate of the guideline amount in your case, please visit the child support calculator at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Simply choose the worksheet that applies to your situation and fill in the requested information to the best of your ability.
Child Support Enforcement
Child support can be enforced by civil or criminal contempt of court or by the North Carolina Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSE).