While divorce may terminate the marital relationship, it does not end a couple’s relationship as parents and the parents financial responsibility associated with raising a child. In North Carolina, married parents are joint guardians of their children and possess equal rights to custody. Under the law, NC courts do not show favor to either parent in custody matters. Custody may be awarded equally between the parents (joint custody), or primary custody may be given to one parent (sole custody) with visitation granted to the other parent. The primary custodian will usually be paid child support by the non-custodial parent.
As with the other issues surrounding a divorce or separation there are two ways child support can be determined. First, the parties may come to an agreement in a separation agreement whereby the parties mutually agreed upon the payment of child support. This is the less costly, quickest, and less stressful of the two alternatives as the parties are able to control the outcome. If the parties are unable to come to a mutual agreement, the court system would be the mechanism for having child support determined. One of the parties would file a complaint for child support and the final decision would be left up to the judge as to the amount. Filing a lawsuit is usually the more costly, more stressful, and time consuming option, but in some cases the parties are left with no alternatives.
The North Carolina Legislature has enacted the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines that establishes certain support guidelines based on a number of factors. These factors include:
- Gross income of the parties
- Health insurance costs
- Daycare costs
- Other children of the parties
- Other extraordinary expenses of the children
- The number of overnight visits with the non-custodial parent
If either party believes that the child support amount calculated in the guidelines is not sufficient or excessive based on the children’s needs, then either party may ask for a deviation from the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. When this has been properly requested the court will consider the needs of the children and the ability of the parties to pay the guideline amount of child support in addition to the information listed above. The party requesting the deviation must be aware that the child support amount may be increased or decreased by the judge and there is no guarantee that they will get the type of decision they request.
Once child support has been established then if there is ever a change of circumstances in the needs of the children or the ability of one party to pay or other such factors, a modification of child support may be sought. Once this has been requested the court will determine first whether there has been a change of circumstances warranting a modification and if the party passes that threshold then the other factors listed above would be used again to establish a new child support amount.
If you are currently involved in a child custody or support dispute or foresee one, or if you are having complications with your court-ordered child support, there are laws to protect your rights and your children. Please contact our office today for legal help in your separation, divorce or child custody matters. Williams Law Group, PC will use proven legal strategies, strong evidence and aggressive negotiating to ensure that you present the strongest case. We can be reached at (919) 773-1440 or via email.