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.
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 in 2020, our child support attorneys in Raleigh are breaking down these updates.
Updates to Child Support Laws in 2020
The child support law updates were effective as of 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 based on the ability of each parent to provide support or the amount would be unjust or inappropriate. 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 parents’ 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
For example, a judge may reduce the monthly support payment if that parent is paying for the child’s health insurance and other expenses.
In the event that a claim is made for a parent to pay retroactive child support, the court may determine the amount of the obligation by either:
- Determining how much support would have been required based on the child support guidelines during the time sought
- 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.
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 living of the child.
Schedule a Consultation with a Child Support Attorney Today
We understand that child support laws can be confusing and challenging, and that you want what’s best for your family. If you need an existing support agreement updated, or you’re getting a divorce and want to ensure a fair support agreement, reach out to our team today at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to learn more.
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