How Child Support is Determined

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In North Carolina, both parents are responsible for providing support for their minor children, but the legal obligation is based on each party’s ability to pay and provide support.  The purpose of child support is to try to put the children in the same position as if their parents were still living together – so the more money the parties make, the more money there is to care for the needs of the children.  Child support is meant to meet the reasonable needs of the child.  For parties earning a combined income of less than $30,000 a month, typically the North Carolina Child Support guidelines calculator is used.  When the combined income exceeds $360,000 per year, the court looks at the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, maintenance and standard of living in order to make a determination.  There are instances where parties can file a deviation from the guidelines, but most cases use the guidelines to determine the amount owed.

In order to determine child support, the party’s gross income is used, as well as the number of overnights with each parent and certain expenses such as work related child care expenses and the cost of health insurance.  Sometimes extraordinary expenses are also used, such as tuition for private school to meet the needs of a child or the costs to transport the children between both parents’ homes.  If a parent is not working and does not have a child under the age of three living in the home, then income can be imputed – typically minimum wage if there is not a history of employment, or possibly more.

In North Carolina, the payor parent is only legally obligated to pay child support until the minor child turns 18 years old and graduates from high school.  If the child is still in high school at 19 years old, there is still an obligation to pay as long as the child is making satisfactory process, until the child turns 20 years old.  While some parents agree to payments for college and other expense beyond 18 years old, the court has no authority on its own to order payments past 18 and high school graduation (unless they court is enforcing a prior agreement).

In North Carolina, there are three worksheets for guideline cases:  Worksheet A (when one parent has primary custody), Worksheet B (when the parents have joint or shared custody) and Worksheet C (when custody of two or more children is split between parents).

You can find out more information and view the worksheets at

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