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2023 Updates to NC Child Support Laws

Since the North Carolina legislature passed the 1975 Child Support Enforcement and Paternity Enforcement Act, parents have had a legal responsibility to pay child support, particularly when they have custody of the child less than 50 percent of the time. If payments aren't met, there may be legal ramifications including wage garnishment. It's important to know your state's local child support laws and requirements. In this article, we'll discuss 2023 updates to NC child support laws.

Picture of a parent holding hands with their child for the article about NC child support laws.

While the main bill has remained unchanged, as our society, technology, and other factors shift, updates to the law are made. To help you understand new NC child support laws, our child support attorneys in Raleigh are breaking down the recent updates made to child support laws in the Tar Heel State. 

Updates to NC Child Support Laws

The most recent updates to child support laws took place on October 5, 2022, when the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released the announcement that they will now accept payments made through Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, PayPal, debit card, or credit card. Additionally, payments can be made in cash and by debit card paid at local Walmarts. This change to payments makes it easier, simpler, and more convenient for parents to make payments to support their children in NC. 

The other new child support laws in NC became effective on March 1, 2020, and are applicable to any child support actions heard after that date.

Separation Agreement Updates

If a child's parents have a valid separation agreement that lays out one parent's support obligations, then an action for financial support is brought against the parent at a later time, the court must base their payment obligation on the amount of financial support provided under the separation agreement instead of the amount payable under the NC child support guidelines.

However, if the weight of evidence related to the best interest of the child shows the separation agreement amount is unreasonable, the court may enter a temporary or permanent child support order in a hearing.

Deviation from Child Support Guidelines

The court is able to deviate from NC child support guidelines if it finds that applying them would not meet or would exceed the reasonable needs of the child. This is based on the ability of each parent to provide support or if the amount spent would be unjust or inappropriate given their support agreement. 

If the court does find that applying the guidelines would put a parent at a great disadvantage, the court must:

  • State the amount of the parent's presumptive support payment if the guidelines were followed.
  • Determine the reasonable needs of the child and both parent's relative ability to provide support.
  • Support the conclusion that the presumptive amount outlined using the guidelines would be either inadequate or excessive.
  • State the basis on which the court ordered a specific amount.

A judge may reduce the monthly support payment made by a parent if that parent is paying for the child's health insurance and other expenses, for example. The court will take the agreement, the financial status of the parent, and the additional circumstances of cost into account when serving a verdict on costs that deviate from the regular support agreement. 

Retroactive Support Rulings

In the event that a claim is made for a parent to pay retroactive child support, because they have missed past payments or for a time when a child support agreement schedule was not in effect, the court may determine the amount of the obligation to pay retroactively in one of two ways. 

The court’s decision on the obligated support amount is determined by either:

  1. Determining how much support would have been required based on the child support guidelines during the time sought.
  2. Determining the fair share of the cost of the child's care.

If a separation agreement was in place during this time, the court will not enter an order for retroactive child support different than the amount required by the agreement. 

Determining Support in Cases of Low or High Parental Income

The North Carolina child support guidelines do take into account the income of the parent who is meant to be paying child support, whether it's extremely low or high. The income of the support-paying parent is vital to determining how much money the parent is obligated to spend in support of the child’s needs and well-being each month. 

Supporting Parents with Low Income

Parents who are supposed to pay child support still need to have a self-support reserve, which is why the guidelines only require a payment of $50 per month for those living below the 2018 poverty line ($1,012 per month for one person). As the supporting parent's income increases, the Schedule of Basic Support Obligations adjusts to maintain a self-supporting income reserve.

Supporting Parents with High Incomes

Conversely, when a paying parent has an adjusted gross income of over $30,000 a month, the guidelines can't be used to determine a fair amount of child support. In this case, the court can set support in a way that will meet the reasonable needs of the child while also regarding the accustomed standard of living for the child. 

Schedule a Consultation with a Child Support Attorney Today

We understand that NC child support laws can be confusing and challenging, and while you want what is best for your children and family, you need to ensure that the children’s needs are being met with a realistic, sustainable, and fair support schedule. 

If you need an existing child support agreement updated, or you're getting a divorce and want to ensure a fair support agreement is put into effect, reach out to our team of child support attorneys at Doyle Divorce Law today. 

We can be reached by calling  (919) 301-8843 or filling out the form below. 

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