Can a Court Deviate from Child Support Guidelines?

In Child Support by Sarah Hink

No reasonable person can dispute that children need to be financial supported by their parents. Children require food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare to survive. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it is also a legal duty of parents. However, the amount of support is often an incredibly contentious matter. Some common reasons include the underlying animosity between the former partners and the mutual belief that the other is being greedy.

Child support in North Carolina is based on an “income shares approach” that essentially assumes that each parent shares a responsibility to support the child. The legislature has developed guidelines for child support that consider the income of both parents, the number of overnights that the child spends with each parent, and other expenses, such as who provides the minor child’s health insurance. Generally, courts must follow and approve child support obligations that fall within these guidelines.

Basis For a Deviation

The guidelines aren’t right for everyone. In fact, many custodial parents feel that the non-custodial parent is providing adequate support. On the other side, the non-custodial parent may feel that their child support obligation under the guidelines is excessive. It should be known that the guidelines are not set in stone.

A court can deviate from the child support guidelines if requested by either parent or on the court’s own motion. The court must find that the guidelines would either fail to meet or exceed the reasonable needs of the child. This is based on the “relative ability of each parent to provide support” or that the guidelines amount would be “unjust or inappropriate.”

A valid order to deviate from the guidelines requires explicit written findings that:

  • States the calculated guideline amounts;
  • Determines the reasonable needs of the child and the relative ability of each parent to provide support;
  • Finds that the guideline amount is “inadequate or excessive or that application of the guidelines is otherwise unjust or inappropriate”; and
  • States the basis that the court used to determined the child support obligation.

High Income Families

Another exception to the child support guidelines is for couples with a combined income of $300,000 or more per year. For these parents, the guidelines do not apply and the courts instead look to the “reasonable needs” of the child. This may include factors such as health needs, educational needs, the child’s standard of living, and the parents’ property and incomes.

 Contact New Direction Family Law

Child support is a big deal for children and for parents. At New Direction Family Law, we give child support cases the weight that you and your children deserve. Our attorneys are smart, knowledgeable, and passionate about giving our clients a voice and getting things right. If you need legal assistance, contact us. We proudly serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us online at our website.

Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law
(919) 719-3470