“Child support is to be set in such amount ‘as to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance, having due regard to the estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties.'” Buncombe Cnty. ex rel. Blair v. Jackson, 138 N.C. App. 284, 287, 531 S.E.2d 240, 243 (2000) (quoting N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.4(c)). This is a great quote to illustrate what child support represents. North Carolina uses the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines to calculate the appropriate amount of support based on the gross incomes of the parties (noting that the Guidelines only apply up to the parties combined income being $25,000.00 per month; beyond that may require a deviation from the Guidelines), cost of healthcare for the minor children, work related child care and extraordinary expenses (an example being private school tuition.) The amount determined by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines has great weight with the court. In fact, “Child support set consistent with the Guidelines is conclusively presumed to be in such amount as to meet the reasonable needs of the child and commensurate with the relative abilities of each parent to pay support.” Id. at 287, 531 S.E.2d at 243. Further, when making a determination of child support using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, the court is not required to “take any evidence, make any findings of fact, or enter any conclusions of law ‘relating to the reasonable needs of the child for support and the relative ability of each parent to [pay or] provide support.'” Biggs v. Greer, 136 N.C. App. 294, 297, 524 S.E.2d 577, 581 (2000) (quoting Browne v. Browne, 101 N.C. App. 617, 624, 400 S.E.2d 736, 740 (1991)).
The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines provides that “the court upon its own motion or upon motion of a party may deviate from the guidelines if, after hearing evidence and making findings regarding the reasonable needs of the child for support and the relative ability of each parent to provide support, it finds by the greater weight of the evidence that application of the guidelines would not meet, or would exceed, the reasonable needs of the child considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support, or would otherwise be unjust or inappropriate.” In the case of deviating from the child support guidelines, the court is required to hear “evidence and find facts related to the reasonable needs of the child for support and the parent’s ability to pay[.]” Id. at 297, 524 S.E.2d at 581; Gowing v. Gowing, 111 N.C. App. 613, 618, 432 S.E.2d 911, 914 (1993) (stating that “[t]he second paragraph of N.C. [Gen. Stat.] § 50-13.4(c) provides that[,] when a request to deviate is made and such evidence is taken, the court should hear the evidence and find the facts relating to the reasonable needs of the child for support and the relative ability of each parent to provide support'”). In making the required findings, “the trial court must consider ‘the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance, having due regard to the estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties, the child care and homemaker contributions of each party, and other facts of the particular case.'” Beamer, 169 N.C. App. at 598, 610 S.E.2d at 224 (quoting State ex rel. Fisher v. Lukinoff, 131 N.C. App. 642, 645, 507 S.E.2d 591, 594 (1998)).
If you feel you have a child support case that requires deviating from the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, we would encourage you to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss your unique situation, and compare what your guideline child support amount may be versus what amount your children need to meet their reasonable needs.
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