For stable, confident kids
The 2015 North Carolina Child Support Guidelines provide presumptive guidelines for calculating the basic child support obligation for parties with combined adjusted gross incomes not exceeding $25,000 per month ($300,000 per year). There are certain variables that may be considered in computing the parties’ child support obligation, including the number of overnights the child spends with each parent, expenses for the child’s health insurance, work-related child care expenses, and extraordinary expenses to meet the needs of the child.
If the parties’ combined adjusted gross incomes exceed $300,000 per year or there are extraordinary circumstances which require a deviation from the child support guidelines, then child support cannot be determined using the Guidelines. In these circumstances, child support is determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the incomes and expenses of both parties, the needs of the child, and the parties’ respective abilities to provide for the child.
Parents are not required to go to court to resolve child support. Whenever possible, we encourage clients to try to resolve the matter through alternative means of dispute resolution such as settlement negotiations, mediation, arbitration, or collaborative law. These methods almost always are less expensive than going to court and, in addition, the parties may reach an agreement on issues which the court does not have legal authority to decide between the parties. For example, if child support is litigated, a trial judge does not have legal authority to require a parent to pay a child’s college expenses or to require a parent to maintain life insurance for the benefit of the child. If the parties agree on child support and related issues, however, the parties may contract that one or both of them will pay the cost of the child’s college related expenses or maintain life insurance for the benefit of the child.
As with child custody, child support always is subject to modification by a court having jurisdiction. Either parent may initiate legal proceedings to seek a modification (increase or decrease) in child support based upon a substantial change of circumstances. Because of the court’s inherent duty to protect the interests of minor children, the court has authority to enter an order that supersedes any agreement between the parties regarding child custody and child support or that modifies an existing court order.
Some factors that may be considered in determining whether there has been a substantial change of circumstances that would warrant modification of child support include: an increase or decrease in the child’s expenses; a change in custodial arrangement; and emancipation of a child. A reduction in a parent’s income may constitute a substantial change of circumstance if it was an involuntary reduction. When a child support order has been in effect for at least three years and the current Guidelines amount would be at least 15% higher or lower than the child support amount owed under the existing order, the Guidelines presume that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred to justify a modification of child support.
The family law attorneys at Tharrington Smith have extensive knowledge and experience in the fine details associated with in-depth examination of incomes, expenses, and other financial issues that may impact awards of child support. We provide legal representation in child support matters, including the following:
- determining child support obligations in cases that require interpretation and utilization of the child support guidelines;
- establishing child support obligations in high income or special-needs cases;
- enforcement of child support obligations;
- collection of child support arrearages; and
- modification (seeking an increase or reduction) of child support.
Our attorneys are well-versed in all aspects of family financial matters and can offer you advice and guidance in order to facilitate a fair and reasonable compromise through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or collaborative law. When methods of alternative dispute resolution have been exhausted or are not viable options, our dedicated and professional family law attorneys have the trial skills necessary to present your best case before the court.