Child Support Guidelines
Western North Carolina Child Support Attorneys
The use of the child support guidelines in North Carolina applies as a
rebuttable presumption, meaning the parties are required to follow the
guidelines unless there is sufficient evidence that the guidelines should
not be used, as discussed below. However, there are some cases where the
guidelines don’t apply. The guidelines do not apply to stepparents
and other individuals with secondary liability for support of a child.
Also, in the event parents execute a valid, unincorporated separation
agreement that provides for an amount different from the guidelines, the
court must use that amount unless it finds that the child support provided
in the agreement is unreasonable.
How Guidelines Are Determined
In determining a guideline child support amount, the court does not look
at the specific needs of the child. No such evidence is necessary unless
a party is seeking a deviation. The Court first determines a party’s
gross income. This is based on the parent’s actual income at the
time. Again, this can cause problems if a parent or party has a variable
income, is hiding income or has voluntarily reduced their income. Income
from all sources is considered, possibly even including routine and regular gifts.
After the gross income of each parent or party is determined and allowed
deductions are subtracted, the court determines if either party provides
health insurance for the minor children; if either parent pays for child
care to allow that parent to work; and whether the child has any extraordinary
expenses that should be considered. After determining all of the above,
the court then selects the appropriate child support worksheet: primary,
shared or split. Selecting the correct worksheet is vital to getting the
appropriate child support amount.
As can be seen from the above descriptions, in the event of split or shared
custody, the court must determine the number of overnights each parent
has with the minor children. Primary custody means one party has the minor
child for 243 or more overnights. Thus, if a party wishes to have "shared
custody" of a minor child, that party must have at least 123 overnights
with the child. The Guidelines further state that to have shared custody
(for child support purposes), the party must:
(a) share custody of all children for whom support is being determined, or
(b) when one parent has primary physical custody of one of more of the
children and the parents share the year and each parent assumes financial
responsibility for the child's expenses during the time the child
lives with that parent.
In summary, parties have shared custody of a child if the child lives with
each parent for a least 123 nights during the year and each parent assumes
financial responsibility for the child's expenses during the time
the child lives with that parent.
Deviation from Guidelines
Either party can request a deviation from the guidelines, or the court
can find a deviation is necessary without any requesting such relief.
To make a deviation, the court must hear evidence related to the reasonable
needs of the child and the parent's ability to pay. If the court elects
to deviate from the guidelines, the court must make written findings of
fact that justify the deviation.
The guidelines state that the “Court may deviate from the guidelines
in cases where application would be inequitable to one of the parties
or to the child(ren).”
Section 50-13.4 of the North Carolina Statutes states that upon request of any party, the court shall hear evidence and
find the facts relating to the reasonable needs of the child for support
and the relative ability of each parent to provide support. If, after
considering the evidence, the court finds that the application of the
guidelines would not meet or would exceed the reasonable needs of the
child, considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support,
or would be otherwise unjust or inappropriate, the court may vary from
Contact a Child Support Attorney at Our Office for Help
For those cases that fall outside of the child support guidelines, we can
work with you to put together the best possible case to get the support
your child needs. Judges are reluctant to depart from the child support
guidelines, so it is vital that you present the strongest possible case
if you are seeking an award outside the guidelines. Our family law attorneys
have the trial experience necessary to aggressively pursue such awards.
To speak to one of our family law lawyers,
contact us today.