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Child Support


Next to child custody in terms of contentious and important family law matters is the issue of child support. The state of North Carolina believes that both parents have an equal duty to contribute to the welfare of their child; as such, the non-custodial parent is typically ordered to pay child support to the custodial parent.

How Is a Child Support Amount Determined?

There are a number of factors that will affect the amount of child support that you are obligated to pay. These include:

  • Custody. The amount of time that you have custody over your child will directly affect your support agreement. This is because child support is calculated, in part, based on the number of overnights that the child spends with each parent.
  • Monthly gross income. Of course, another item that will have an affect on how much you have to pay in child support is your monthly gross income. Gross income, before taxes, will be considered.
  • Existing support orders. In some cases, a parent may already be paying child support for another child. If this is the case, the court will take it into consideration.
  • Childcare costs. For most working parent, childcare is a necessary expense. The court will consider any reasonable childcare costs that a custodial parent may encounter, such as the cost of summer camps, daycare, babysitters, etc.
  • Health insurance. Providing healthcare for a child is mandatory. If an employer covers the costs of premiums, then the premiums will not have an affect on a child support obligation. However, if health insurance premiums are paid out of pocket, then they will absolutely be included in a support agreement.
  • Extraordinary expenses. In some cases, a child may have special needs, and will therefore require different expenses than would another child. For example, a child who is suffering from a disability may require special healthcare, services, or education.

Enforcing a Child Support Order

A child support order is a legally binding document; paying child support is not optional, but mandatory. Further, the failure to pay child support can have legal consequences. If your ex-spouse is supposed to pay a child support agreement but is not, you have the right to seek enforcement.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services – Child Support Enforcement offices, are responsible for helping an individual to enforce a child support obligation when someone is delinquent on their payments. If a person who is legally obligated to make a support payment has not, Child Support Enforcement may withhold wages, intercept tax refunds, garnish unemployment benefits, garnish workers’ compensation pay, garnish Social Security benefits, and more. Other enforcement options include filing a court action against a parent who has an obligation to pay child support, reporting the delinquent payer to credit collections agencies, and even putting forth a claim on personal property.

The failure to pay child support is not just a violation of a state law, but a federal one as well. Under federal law, a person who fails to pay a child support agreement may face a fine, imprisonment, or both.

Modifying a Child Support Agreement

If you have an obligation to pay child support, you must make your payments on time and in full; if you fail to do so, you have violated the law. This is true even if you lose your job or have another unforeseen change in circumstance – as long as the court child support order stands, you must honor it.

However, you may seek a modification of your child support order. Much like a child custody agreement, this is only possible in the event that a significant change in circumstance has occurred to warrant the modification.

Family Law Attorneys Serving You

There are many issues that are hard to understand when getting a divorce, facing domestic abuse, trying to establish paternity and get a child support order, and more. At The Law Offices of J. Scott Smith, PLLC, our experienced North Carolina family law attorneys are ready to serve you. Contact us today for consultation using our online form.