Have you lost your job or had to shut down your business due to the Coronavirus and are concerned that you can no longer pay your current child support obligation? If you can no longer afford your child support payments thanks to COVID-19, you may be able to lower your child support payment. North Carolina has established the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines to assist in determining child support amounts. If you are paying substantially more than the calculation set forth in the guidelines, you should consider seeking to modify your child support obligation.
Child support is generally paid in amounts determined by either a contractual child support agreement, like a separation agreement or through a court order. In most cases, the amount you owe can be changed in either method, but there are some serious differences in how to go about lowering the support obligation.
Court Ordered Child Support
If there is an existing child support order, you MUST continue to make the payments until you take action to modify your child support obligation. If you fail to do so, you can be held in contempt of court and suffer punishment from the court; including but not limited to paying arrears (amount owed on missed child support payments), having your tax refunds garnished, and in some extreme cases be sentenced to jail.
In order to modify a child support order entered in North Carolina, you must first file a motion to modify child support. Once you have filed your motion, any arrearages CAN be tolled as of the date of filing your motion. In other words, if you are eventually successful in your motion to modify child support, any child support owed between the date of filing your motion and the date the new child support order is entered is also subject to modification.
At your court hearing, you must show that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the time of the original order. Typically, a significant involuntary decrease in the obligor’s income is considered a substantial change of circumstances that warrants a modification of child support.
Contractual Child Support
If you pay child support as determined by a contract, you will need to review the contract to see if there is a mechanism included for modification. If not, typically we would start by negotiating a lower amount, or by simply filing a child support claim (even though you are paying) to ask the Court to determine the true amount of child support going forward. In most cases, the Courts can set child support based on the current financial circumstances regardless of the amounts set forth in an agreement. However, these decisions are not always simple ones and you need to consult with an experienced family law attorney to guide you.
Consult with Our Raleigh Family Law Attorneys Today
So, if the Coronavirus and resulting economic shutdown have left you unable to afford your current child support obligation, take action to protect yourself by legally seeking a reduction. Contact our experienced family law attorneys if you need assistance with a child support modification.
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