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Frequently asked questions about child support

If you are a North Carolina parent who either pays or receives child support, you may have some questions about the process. Below are some common questions and answers.

What are the consequences of not paying child support?

It's never a good idea to ignore child support obligations. Not only do you fail your children, but there are penalties you will face. You could have your tax refunds confiscated, lose occupational and driver's licenses, face contempt of court charges and even go to jail.

How is the amount of child support owed calculated?

The state uses child support guidelines when the parents' combined annual income is under $300,000. There are four four major factors involved in calculating child support. They are:

1) The father's gross monthly income;

2) The mother's gross monthly income;

3) Childcare costs related to the parents' employment;

4) The child's share of health insurance premiums.

When either of the parents has another dependent child for whom they have support obligations, that amount is also factored into the equation. Dependent upon the parents' custody agreement, different support obligation worksheets are used to calculate the total owed.

How long will I have to pay?

Parents often wonder how long they must pay or can receive child support for their child(ren). Under most circumstances, child support ends when the kids turn 18, but if they are still enrolled in high school, the parent has to pay up until their graduation. However, if a 17-year-old child graduates from high school prior to his or her 18th birthday, the parent paying support is obligated to pay support until the 18th birthday.

There can be exceptions when support obligations are extended past that point, or even terminated early, but those circumstances are uncommon.

My circumstances changed. Can my child support be lowered?

Child support can be raised or lowered due to substantial changes in the circumstances of the non-custodial parent. To meet those requirements, there must be at least a difference of 15 percent in the amount currently paid and the newly calculated amount. Also, a minimum of three years must have lapsed since the court order regarding the amount of child support took effect.

A North Carolina family law attorney is a good source of information regarding child support obligations and potential modifications.

Source: North Carolina Bar Association, "Child Custody/ Visitation and Child Support," accessed April 14, 2016

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