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:

  1. share custody of all children for whom support is being determined, or
  2. 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.

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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 the guidelines.

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.