Child Support – How Much, How Long and How Does It Change?

Child Support – How Much, How Long and How Does It Change?

In Child Support by Elizabeth Stephenson

Child Support – How Much, How Long and How Does It Change? | New Direction Family Law | Wake CountyA recent report released by the Department of Agriculture found that a middle-income, married couple with two children is estimated to spend $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015. This number only covers costs from birth through age 17 and that doesn’t include college expenses. What does that mean for the average parent? You can expect to spend between $12,350 and nearly $14,000 a year, on average, to raise a child.

If you are separated or divorced from your child’s other parent, that cost could be more.  You may now have to pay for work related child care, before and/or after school care and summer camps.  And don’t forget the braces and tutoring and, if you’ve got a sports champion, those travel sport league expenses.

How Much?

In North Carolina, child support is determined by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.  The guidelines are based on the “income shares.” This assumes 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.

As a starting point, the guidelines provide a set amount of child support to be paid based on the parent’s incomes and the number of children. The calculator is a preprinted form.  You’ll need to know the following information to enter into the calculator:

  1. The gross income of both parents per month.
  2. Do either of you have children from another relationship?
  3. The number of overnights the children spend with each parent.
  4. The amount of health, dental and/or vision insurance that is paid for the child or children per month,
  5. The amount of work-related child care that each parent pays per month, and
  6. Are there any extraordinary expenses? This could be travel expenses for visitation or attending a private school due to a physical or educational handicap.

Once you have that information, you can go to the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines calculator.  The calculator will then calculate the amount of child support you should be receiving or paying.
There are 3 different child support worksheets depending on the number of overnights the child(ren) spend with each parent.

Worksheet A: If one parent has the children primarily and the other parent has them for less than 123 overnights a year

Worksheet B:  If you have joint custody and one parent has more than 123 overnights

Worksheet C: If one child lives primarily with one parent and another child lives primarily with the other parent.

Remember, the guidelines are a starting point.  There are times when the court can deviate from the guidelines an order a greater or lesser amount of child support, or parents can agree to a different amount of child support to be paid.  Additionally, if your combined income is more than $300,000 per year, or if you are self-employed or unemployed, the guidelines may not apply to your particular case.

How Long Does Child Support Last?

Generally, child support is to be paid until a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school.  However, if a child is still in high school, child support can continue until the child graduates, otherwise ceases to attend school on a regular basis, fails to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation, or reaches age 20, whichever comes first.

How Does It Change?

Child support, like child custody, can always be modified.  If you have a permanent order for child support, you must show a substantial change in circumstances for the order to be modified.  A substantial change can be shown if the Order is more than 3 years or a difference of 15% or more between the amount of current child support being paid and what should be paid under the current circumstances.

If you have any questions about the amount of child support you should be paying or receiving or have had a substantial change in circumstances, it is important that you speak with a family law attorney to ensure the children involved are being adequately supported.


Elizabeth Stephenson
New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law
(919) 719-3470