These are the guidelines used by the Court to calculate the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other. These guidelines are reviewed, and revised if necessary, at least every four years. The last revisions to the Child Support Guidelines occurred on January 1, 2011. In most court cases, child support is decided based on these guidelines; however, either party my request to not follow the guidelines if either party feels the calculation will not result in an appropriate amount of child support being paid to support the minor children. In addition, the Court on its own motion may deviate from the child support guidelines if following the guidelines in a particular case would be unjust or inappropriate. In the event the parties agreed to an amount of child support in a Separation Agreement, the court will assume this amount is reasonable to be ordered to be paid as child support unless the party disputing the amount can provide that said amount is unreasonable.
Retroactive (Past) Child Support
For cases pursuing child support for a timeframe prior to filing the action for child support, the court may either apply the guidelines as they existed during the timeframe in which child support is sought, or award an amount based on the parties’ fair share of actual expenditures for the child’s care. When seeking an award based on actual expenditures, it is important for the parent seeking support to have receipts and any other documentation to prove the actual expenditures. If the parties had entered into a Separation Agreement setting forth child support for the timeframe in which support is sought, the amount in the Agreement will control and not be changed by the court.
Minimum Child Support Payments
The minimum child support order that may be ordered by the court is $50.00. This amount would be appropriate for any party earning an adjusted gross income of less than $999.00 per month.
Determining Child Support in High Combined Income Cases
In cases were the parents’ combined adjusted gross income is more than $25,000.00 per month (or $300,000.00 per year), the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines cannot be used. Instead, the Court will set an amount of support in such an amount to meet the reasonable needs of the children with regard to health, education and maintenance taking into account the parents’ estates, earnings, accustomed standard of living, child care and homemaker contributions.
Assumptions and Expenses Included in Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations
The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines are based on an “income shares model,” meaning that the concept of 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. Further, it is assumed that the parent receiving child support claims the tax exemptions for the child. If the parent receiving child support has minimal or no tax liability, the Court may consider requiring the custodial parent to assign the exemption to the supporting parent and deviate from the guidelines.
The child support guidelines base child support on each parties’ monthly gross income from any source, including but not limited to:
- Income from employment or self-employment
- Severance pay
- Ownership or operation of a business, partnership, or corporations
- Rental of Property
- Retirement or Pensions
- Capital Gains
- Social Security Benefits
- Workers’ Compensation Benefits
- Unemployment Insurance Benefits
- Disability Pay
- Insurance Benefits
- Alimony or maintenance received from persons other than the parties to the instant action
When income is received on an irregular, non-recurring, or one-time basis, the court may average or pro-rate the income over a specified period of time or require an obligor to pay as child support a percentage of his or her non-recurring income that is equivalent to the percentage of his or her recurring income paid for child support.
Specifically excluded from being considered income for purposes of calculating child support is:
- Benefits received from means-tested public assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Electronic Food and Nutrition Benefits and General Assistance
- Child support payments receive don behalf of a child other than the child for whom support is being sought in the present action
- Employer contributions toward future Social Security and Medicare payments for an employee
- Amounts that are paid by a parent’s employer directly to a third party or entity for health, disability or life insurance or retirement benefits and are not withheld or deducted from the parent’s wages, salary or pay.
Social security benefits received for the benefit of a child as a result of disability or retirement of either party are included as income attributed to the parent on whose earnings record the benefits are paid, but are deductible from that parent’s support obligation. If the disability benefits exceed the child support obligation, no payment should be ordered unless the Court decides it appropriate to deviate from the guidelines.
Typically, income does not include the income of a person who is not a parent of a child for whom support is determined regardless of whether that person is married or lives with the child’s parent or has physical custody of the child.
Income from Self-Employment or Operation of a Business
Gross income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business, or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation is defined as gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required for self-employment or business operation. Ordinary and necessary business expenses do not include amounts allowable by the IRS for the accelerated component of depreciation expenses, tax credits, or any other business expenses determined by the Court to be inappropriate for determining gross income. In most cases, this amount will differ from a determination of business income for tax purposes.
Expense reimbursements or in-kind payments, such as the use of a company car, free housing or reimbursed meals, received by a parent in the course of employment, self-employment or operation of a business is counted as income if they are significant and reduce personal living expenses.
Potential or Imputed Income
If the Court finds that a parent’s voluntary unemployment or underemployment is the result of bad faith or deliberate suppression of income to avoid or minimize their child support obligation, child support may be calculated based on that party’s potential rather than actual income. Potential income may not be imputed to a parent who is physically or mentally incapacitated or is caring for a child who is under the age of three years and for whom child support is being determined.
The amount of potential income imputed to a parent must be based on their employment potential and probable earnings level based on that parent’s recent work history, occupational qualifications and prevailing job opportunities and earning levels in the community. If the parent does not have a recent work history or vocational training, potential income should not be less than the minimum hourly wage for a 40 hour work week.
Responsibility for Other Children and Preexisting Child Support Obligations
- Current child support payments actually paid by a parent under any pre-existing court order (in effect at the time a Child Support Order is entered or modified), separation agreement or voluntary support arrangement (if paid consistently for a reasonable period of time) are deducted from the parents gross income.
- Payments on arrearages are not deducted.
- The fact that a parent pays child support for two or more families under two or more child support orders, Separation Agreements, or voluntary support arrangements may be considered as a factor warranting deviation from the child support guidelines.
- Actual payments of alimony are not deducted from gross income but may be considered as factor to vary from the presumptive child support obligation.
- A parent’s financial responsibility for his or her natural or adopted children who currently reside with the parent (other than those that are the subject of the instant action) is deducted from the parent’s gross income. This may not be the sole basis to modify a current child support order.
Reasonable child care costs that are, or will be, paid by a parent due to employment or job search are considered in the child support calculation. Other reasonable child care costs, such as those incurred while a parent attends school, may be the basis for a deviation.
Health Insurance and Health Care Costs
The amount that is, or will be, paid by a parent (or parent’s spouse) for health (medical, or medical and dental) insurance for the children for whom support is being determined is taken into consideration when determining child support. The amount paid by the employer is not considered, only the amount paid out of pocket by the parent or their spouse. If the children are covered by a family policy, only the portion attributed to the children is considered when calculating child support. If that determination cannot be made, the total cost of the premium is divided by the total number of person covered by the policy and then multiplied by the number of covered children for whom support is being determined.
The Court may order either parent to maintain health (medical or medical and dental) insurance coverage for a child if it is actually and currently available to the parent at a reasonable cost. If such insurance is not available, the Court may enter an order requiring the parent to obtain and maintain health insurance for a child if and when the parent has access to reasonably priced health insurance for the child.
Other Extraordinary Expenses
The following expenses may be taken into consideration when calculating child support:
- Expenses related to special or private elementary schools to meet a child’s particular educational needs
- Expenses for transporting the child between the parent’s homes if the court feels it is necessary, reasonable and in the child’s best interests.
Child Support Worksheets
Child Support is calculated based on one of the following worksheets based on the circumstances of your particular situation:
Worksheet A – the worksheet is used when one party has primary physical custody of all the children for whom support is being determined (at least 243 overnights per year). The parent who does not have primary physical custody is ordered to pay child support to the part who has primary custody.
Worksheet B – this worksheet is used when the parents share custody of all the children for whom support is being determined (or one parent has primary custody of one of the children and the parties share custody of the other children.) Parents share custody when the child lives with each parent at least 123 overnights during the year and each parent assumes financial responsibility for the child’s expenses during the time the child lives with that parent. A parent does not have shared custody of a child when that parent has visitation rights that allow the child to spend less than 123 overnights per year with that parent. The party with the higher child support obligation is order to pay child support to the other party.
Worksheet C – this worksheet is used when primary physical custody of two or more children is split between the parents. The party with the higher child support obligation is order to pay child support to the other party.
In a proceeding to modify the amount of child support payable under a child support order that was entered at least three years before the pending motion to modify was filed, a difference of 15% or more between the amount of child support payable under the existing order and the amount of child support resulting from application of the guidelines based on the parent’s current incomes and circumstances shall be presumed to constitute a substantial change of circumstances warranting a modification of the existing child support order.
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