Typically, if one parent has primary child custody and the other parent has secondary custody with visitation, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the other. But what about in joint custody or 50-50 custody arrangements? While most people believe no one pays child support when both parents have equal custody, our family law attorneys in Raleigh are breaking down why it’s not always that simple.
How Is Child Support Determined in North Carolina?
To understand whether or not a parent pays child support, it’s necessary to look at how child support is calculated in North Carolina. There are four key factors that come into play.
1. Gross Monthly Income of Both Parents
First, the court will look at the gross monthly income of both parents, and this does not include the income of any step parents. The court uses this to determine a schedule of basic support obligations and combines the gross income of both parents weighed against the number of children the couple has.
Let’s look at a couple with three kids who has a combined adjusted gross income of $5,000 per month. The court will then determine how much of a percent each parent puts into that $5,000 monthly income by dividing individual gross income by the combined income. If Parent A earns $3,500 per month, they have a 70% contribution, while Parent B, with a $1,500 monthly income has a 30% contribution. The current schedule of basic support obligations of three children with a combined adjusted gross income of $5,000 a month is $1,586.
2. The Custody Schedule
When the couple has shared custody, the basic support obligation is multiplied by 1.5. Going back into the math – The shared custody basic obligation between Parent A and Parent B is now $2,379. Parent A has a contribution percentage of 70%, or $1,665, while Parent B has a contribution percentage of 30%, or $714. That’s before dividing up parenting time because joint custody in North Carolina doesn’t necessarily mean 50-50 or equal custody makes child support with joint custody even more complicated.
In fact, only one-third of the year needs to be spent with one parent (122 overnights) for it to be considered joint custody. Because of this, the amount of time spent with one parent over the other does factor into child support arrangements. If one parent has the children for 122 nights of the year, and the other parent has the rest, the child support payment would be different than if both parents had the children for 182 or 183 nights.
To determine the share of the support obligation, Parent A would multiply their share by Parent B’s percentage of overnight visits per year. If both parents have true, 50-50 custody, Parent A would multiply $1,665 by 0.50 to get 832.50. Parent B would multiply their obligation by 50 percent also, and would thus have an obligation of $357. The smaller support obligation is then subtracted from the larger one and the parent with the larger obligation pays the final amount to the other parent.
So, subtracting $357 of Parent B’s obligation from $832.50 of Parent A’s obligation, and this would mean Parent A would be paying $475.50 per month in child support.
3. How Many Children One or Both Parents Have
While the above example is complicated, there are other factors that can affect child support payments with equal custody, and this includes if one parent has other children from a different relationship.
4. External Financial Support
Finally, there is more to supporting the health and wellbeing of a child beyond monthly payments. This can also include paying for health insurance, education, or child care.
Contact a Family Law Attorney for Child Support and Custody Modifications
If you have concerns about child support payments and joint custody, it’s important to speak with a family law attorney who has experience in these matters. To schedule a consultation with our law firm, reach out to us at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to learn more.
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