When you have minor children, both parents have a moral and legal obligation to provide emotional and financial support until they become adults. This applies regardless of whether or not the parents have ever been married.
When facing a court battle, you may contemplate handling the matter yourself versus hiring a child support lawyer. After all, child support laws protect your rights, don’t they? The answer is yes and no.
A family lawyer will be familiar with court procedures, current laws, and child support guidelines. If you decide to hire a family law attorney, you will benefit from advice from a person with legal knowledge who will be 100% on your side. There are guidelines the court follows in establishing child support payments.
Do you want to flounder through the court rules and procedures or have a legal expert watching your back? Keep reading for seven reasons you should never attempt resolving child support issues without the assistance of a family lawyer.
1. Familiar With Child Support Guidelines
The current North Carolina Child Support Guidelines utilize a formula of variables for calculating the appropriate child support amount. This includes each party’s income, daycare expenses, cost of medical insurance, living arrangements of the child, extraordinary expenses, and parenting overnights.
The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines include a reserve. This ensures obligors can retain a sufficient income to maintain a minimum standard of living.
The 2018 federal poverty level of $1,012 per month is the governing level for this determination. If there is no deviation in place and the obligor’s adjusted gross income falls below that level, the guidelines set forth a minimum support order of $50 per month.
If parents have a combined income of $30,000 or higher per month ($360,000 per year), child support cannot be determined using the child support schedule.
In this case, the court needs to deviate from the Child Support Guidelines to establish an amount it deems to be a reasonable standard. This amount considers costs for the child’s education, health, maintenance, and continuing the standard of living the child is accustomed to.
Ending Support Obligations
Child support obligations do not end until after the child’s 18th birthday. The ending date may vary depending on the circumstances. If the child does not complete their primary or secondary schooling, support obligations may continue until graduation up to age 20.
If the child becomes an emancipated minor, you may be able to obtain a waiver of your child support obligation. If the minor proves to a judge their ability to function as an adult, the judge may grant their petition.
2. Modification Procedures
There are many reasons one parent may seek a child support order modification. It may be a change in the income of one or both parents, a change in the parenting time arrangement, or some other significant change in circumstances that justifies a child support review.
It is important to remember that the current order remains in effect until a new child support order is entered. If either parent needs to have the terms of the order modified, they must file a petition requesting the change.
Even if unemployment impacts the payer’s income, they must fulfill their legal obligation to make support payments. The only way to relieve their obligation is by petitioning the court for a support modification.
A modification does not mean the elimination of the support obligation. It means the payer may receive a reduction in their payment amount. They must first justify the reduction in their income.
If the court determines the income reduction is due to an intentional act to avoid paying child support, they may deny the modification. If the court determines the income reduction is beyond the obligor’s control, they may award an amendment to the order.
3. Enforcement Procedures
Many parents fail to comply with their legal obligation to pay for their child’s maintenance. Enforcement and modification often relate to each other.
For instance, a parent paying support may suffer a decrease in work hours. This prevents them from meeting their support obligation. Therefore, It may become an enforcement issue if they do not file for a modification.
When a judge determines a party is not meeting their obligation to pay child support per court order, they may garnish the payer’s wages or send them to jail.
4. Knowledge of State Law
A divorce lawyer is familiar with all the statutes found in Chapter 50, Divorce and Alimony, of the North Carolina General Assembly.
To effectively present your support case in court, your child support lawyer will know which laws apply to your case and how to present them while protecting your children’s best interests.
5. The Other Party Has a Lawyer
If you decide to represent yourself and on the day of court learn an attorney is representing the other parent, you are at a disadvantage. An experienced child support attorney is familiar with legal proceedings and at ease in the courtroom.
They know the existing laws, court procedures, rules, and how to present a case beneficial to their client’s best interests. They likely appear before the family court judge regularly and are familiar with staff working in child support services.
6. Familiar with Court Procedures
Whether negotiating a settlement through Child Support Services or appearing before the judge, your attorney will be familiar with court procedures and rules. This includes the presentation of your case at hearings and trials. They may be familiar with the family judge’s preferences and present your case in a manner likely to gain approval.
If you do not follow the court rules, your case may end in a dismissal. Your child support attorney will follow the rules to ensure prompt processing of your case through the court system.
7. Pleadings and Orders
Your child support lawyer is familiar with child support law and what is necessary for pleadings. They will prepare a complaint presenting your case and know how to verbalize it to encourage the judge to rule in your favor.
Once the judge issues a ruling on your case, as a plaintiff, it is your responsibility to prepare the order. Your attorney will write an order complying with the court’s ruling and containing mandatory legal jargon.
If the other parent is the moving party, your attorney will know how to review the order for accuracy. They will make any necessary adjustments to the order before signing.
Hiring a Child Support Lawyer
Don’t attempt to handle family law matters on your own. Let our firm’s over 50 years of combined experience work to protect your rights in all family law matters.