Understanding Your Child Support Order

In Child Support by Sarah Hink

Child support is a frequent source of conflict between separated parents. The parent paying support generally thinks they are overpaying, while the parent receiving the support feels the opposite. Nevertheless, from a moral standpoint, we all know that parents should bear the financial responsibilities of their child’s needs. If you have been ordered to pay child support, or are facing the prospect of court ordered child support, it is important to understand how your order was determined.

North Carolina uses an “income shares” approach to child support, which means that both parents are legally responsible for the financial care of their children. This approach basically considers a number of factors to reach child support obligations that emulate what a parent would proportionally pay if the family waere still an intact unit. These factors are put through pre-existing child support guideline worksheets and include the gross monthly income of each parent, the number of children being supported under this order, the number of nights the child spends with each parent, child support obligations relating to other children, the cost of health insurance for the child, the cost of work-related child care services, and extraordinary expenses that may include special medical or educational needs of the child.

How Many Overnights Does Your Child Spend With You?

The number of overnights with your child is a threshold number when it comes to child support. This is because under the law, child support can be calculated under either a “sole custody” or “joint custody” formula. A sole custody formula generally exists when one parent has the child on an overnight basis for less than a third of the year or 123 overnights. Typically, this parent is obligated to make child support payments while the other custodial parent receives the payments for the benefit of the child.

On the other hand, if each parent spends more than 123 overnights per year, then the court will consider support calculated under the joint custody formula. In this scenario, the number of overnights the child(ren) spends with each parent is considered in the calculations of the child support worksheet.

What Income Can a Court Consider?

One of the most significant factors when it comes to child support is the “gross monthly income” of each parent. When it comes to child support, courts have broad discretion to consider a parent’s gross monthly income from virtually any source. This includes wages, salary, self-employment income, bonuses, commissions, annuities, interest income, social security income, pension payments, and even stock options.

What are the Consequences of Ignoring a Child Support Order?

Like any valid court order, child support orders are a big deal and are not to be ignored. This is because courts are empowered with many tools to force the issue when a parent makes late payments or fails to pay child support. This includes wage garnishment, liens on property, tax garnishment, suspension of state licenses, and civil or criminal contempt, meaning you could go to jail if you ignore or refuse to comply with a child support order. If you are having trouble paying your child support obligation or have an issue with your child support order, speak with an attorney instead of taking the risks that come with violating a court order.

New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law is a family law firm that provides legal representation regarding separations, divorces, property division, child custody, and child support matters. If you need advice or representation regarding child support proceedings, or if you want to explore a modification of an order, contact New Direction Family Law. Our attorneys are smart, effective, and experienced. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit our website.

Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law

New Direction Family Law
(919) 719-3470