The NC child support laws were updated in 2020 - find out what this means…
Whether you pay child support each month or you count on it in your budget to care for your family, as your child grows up, there does come a time when child support payments will stop. However, it's not as cut-and-dried as you may think, and there are several factors that can determine how long payments for the support of a child may continue. Our child support attorneys in Raleigh are providing clarity to the question, "When does child support end in North Carolina?" so that parents can adequately plan for their and their child’s financial futures.
Overview of Child Support Laws in North Carolina
Child support laws in North Carolina are designed to ensure that both parents contribute to the financial well-being of their children after separation or divorce. Here are some key points to understand about child support laws in the state.
Child Support Guidelines
North Carolina follows specific child support guidelines that help determine the appropriate amount of support to be paid. These guidelines consider factors such as the parents' income, the number of children, and any special needs or circumstances.
The income of both parents is taken into account when calculating child support. This includes wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, self-employment income, and certain benefits. Other factors, such as child care costs and health insurance premiums, may also be considered.
Child Custody and Support
Child custody arrangements play a role in determining child support. In North Carolina, the parent with primary physical custody (where the child resides most of the time) typically receives child support payments from the other parent. The noncustodial parent's income and the number of overnight visits they have with the child can affect the child support calculation.
Modification and Enforcement
Child support orders can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a substantial change in income or changes in custody arrangements. Both parents have the right to seek a child support modification if they believe it is warranted. Failure to pay child support can result in enforcement actions, such as wage garnishment, interception of tax refunds, or suspension of professional licenses.
Duration of Child Support
The duration of child support in North Carolina generally continues until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. However, there are exceptions if the child has special needs or is still enrolled in secondary education. The court may order the continuation of child support for college or post-secondary education under certain circumstances.
It is advisable to consult with a family law attorney in North Carolina to understand how child support laws apply to your specific situation. An attorney can help ensure that child support calculations are accurate, assist in negotiating agreements, and provide guidance on seeking modifications or enforcement.
Factors Affecting Duration of Child Support
The duration of child support in North Carolina is determined by various factors. While child support typically ends when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, there are certain circumstances that can affect the duration.
Age of Emancipation
In North Carolina, the age of emancipation is the age at which a child is legally considered independent, and child support obligations may cease. By default, it is typically when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. However, the age of emancipation can be extended under specific circumstances.
If a child continues their education beyond high school, child support may be extended to cover their college or post-secondary education expenses. In North Carolina, parents may be required to provide financial support for higher education, including tuition, fees, and related costs. The court may consider factors such as the child's academic performance, available resources, and the parents' financial ability when making determinations regarding support for higher education.
In certain cases, exceptional circumstances can extend the duration of child support. For example, if a child has a disability or special needs that require ongoing support, child support may continue beyond the age of emancipation. The court considers the specific needs of the child and the financial abilities of the parents when determining the duration and extent of support in such cases.
Child custody arrangements can affect the child support end date. If there is a shared or joint custody arrangement where the child spends substantial time with both parents, it may impact the amount and duration of child support. The number of overnight visits with the noncustodial parent can be a factor in calculating support, and it may influence the duration of support payments.
Does Child Support End When My Child Turns 18?
When a child turns 18, they are legally considered an adult, and for the majority of parents, this means they can file a motion to stop paying child support for their adult offspring. However, because a lot of teenagers are still in high school while they are 18, the court will often delay the end of support payments until the child either completes high school or turns 20– whichever comes first.
It is important to check your original divorce agreement or court order as many parents will agree to continue paying child support after the age of 18, especially if the child is staying home while going to college or the child is disabled or has special needs. In this case, a signed contract will supersede the law, and support payments will continue to be enforced.
What Factors Determine When I Can Stop Paying Child Support?
In addition to turning 18 and finishing high school, there are factors that may occur in which a parent can file a motion to stop paying support.
- The child is a legally emancipated minor.
- Your child is no longer living with the parent to whom you pay support.
- Your child spends the majority of time living at your house rather the parent to whom you pay support.
- You and your child's parent have reconciled and live together.
- Your child is married before the age of 18.
- Your child has joined the military.
Common Misconceptions about Child Support Duration
When it comes to child support, there are several misconceptions that can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. Understanding the realities of when child support ends is crucial for parents navigating the complexities of support obligations. Let’s explore some of the common myths regarding child support in North Carolina.
Myth #1: Child Support Automatically Ends When the Child Turns 18
Probably the most common misconception– although the general rule is that child support ends when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, there are circumstances where child support can continue beyond that point. For example, if the child has special needs or is still pursuing post-secondary education, child support may extend beyond the age of 18.
Myth #2: Child Support Ends if the Custodial Parent Remarries
Remarriage of the custodial parent does not automatically terminate child support obligations. Child support is based on the financial responsibility for the child, and the income and resources of the custodial parent’s new spouse are typically not considered when calculating child support.
Myth #3: Child Support Can be Waived by Mutual Agreement
Child support is considered the right of the child, and parents generally cannot waive or terminate child support obligations by mutual agreement alone. The court has the final authority to determine child support based on the child’s best interests, and any agreements made between parents must be approved by the court to be legally binding.
Myth #4: Child Support Only Covers Basic Needs
Child support is intended to provide for the child’s well-being, including their basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. However, it can also encompass other expenses related to education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and reasonable child care costs. The specific details of what child support covers can vary based on the circumstances and the court’s discretion.
Myth #5: Child Support Automatically Adjusts with Changes in Income
Child support orders are based on the income of the parents at the time of the order. While significant changes in income can be grounds for modifying child support, a change in income does not automatically trigger an adjustment. The affected parent must file a formal request for modification with the court and demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances.
How Do I Cease Child Support Payments?
It's important to note that child support payments don't automatically end when a child turns 18 and graduates high school. You must still continue to make your scheduled support payments outlined in your child support agreement or you can face serious legal penalties.
Instead, you must file a motion with the court to cease child support payments and bring proof as to the reason for doing so. This proof can include a birth certificate or a high school diploma. Once the motion is granted, a copy needs to be sent to your workplace payroll or human resources department if you have your wages garnished.
Having a child support attorney work with you during this time to file motions on your behalf, send orders to employers, or advocate on your behalf in the event of challenges can improve your outcomes. You can feel confident that motions will be filed correctly and quickly and all avenues will be explored to help you get the best results in your case.
Schedule a Consultation with a Child Support Attorney Today
If your child is nearing 18 or you would like to stop payments now that your child is over 18 and has graduated high school, we can help you file the motion to end child support payments. Our team of child support lawyers will walk you through the process, file on your behalf, and if there are disputes or concerns, we'll advocate for your best outcomes. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, reach out to us today at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to get started.
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