Child support is more than just a formula from an online calculator.  This critical support mechanism is vital to ensure that each parent or guardian is paying his or her fair share for the child and to make sure the health, safety and well-being of the minor child is being protected.  We focus on establishing actual incomes, determining unique and extraordinary expenses for the child, and making sure the support is accurate. 

Getting the correct support amount usually means working to determine each party’s actual income, which can be challenging based on the manner in which each party makes a living.  Cash businesses, seasonal incomes, discretionary bonuses, profit sharing and other incentive plans, family trusts and other non-traditional forms of income can make determining an actual income difficult.  We have the experience necessary to do a deep dive on personal finances and get to the bottom line quickly and efficiently. 

Guideline Support

In the vast majority of child support cases, the courts will use the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.  These guidelines were enacted by statute and govern how much support should be paid by one of the parents to the other, and is based on the income of each parent and the number of over-nights the child spends with each parent.   The formula is easy enough to apply and most attorneys utilize an online calculator published by the North Carolina Division of Social Services.  The more nuanced issue, as mentioned above, is determining what someone’s actual income is for the purposes of child support.  The child support guidelines apply in most cases, but may not apply in cases extraordinary income (very high incomes) and extraordinary expenses (such as with a disabled or otherwise high needs child). 

The statutes allow variance from the guidelines: “If, after considering the evidence, the Court finds by the greater weight of the evidence that the application of the guidelines would not meet or would exceed the reasonable needs of the child considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support or would be otherwise unjust or inappropriate the Court may vary from the guidelines.”  N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 50-13.4.  While this statutory provision is clear, it is exceedingly rare to see a deviation from the guidelines.  Arguments about whether the child support guidelines apply can be legally technical and if there are any questions about whether child support guidelines apply, you should speak to an experienced attorney.

Expenses that Typically Fall Outside of Child Support

In addition to a child support amount, which is generally intended “to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance”, there are certain expenses that typically fall outside the scope of this payment.  While the child support guidelines are designed to incorporate the costs of monthly health insurance premiums and child care costs, they do not consider extra-curricular activities, uncovered medical expenses, school expenses and things such as lessons or sports team’s fees.  Thus, when it comes to those expenses, which can be variable, the courts usually include a provision that in addition to the payment of child support, the parties will share those expenses.  The sharing of these extra expenses can be done in any ratio, but those expenses typically are either equally or pro-rata by income.  Obviously this can be a major difference if there is a disparity between each party’s income.

Determining Income for Child Support

The first, and often most important, step to getting a child support figure, whether that be under the guidelines or otherwise, is to establish the incomes of each parent.  Sometimes it is as simple as looking at a few pay stubs or W-2 forms.  This is especially true when the parent in question has had the same job for a long period of time, gets paid by a larger company or organization and that pay does not vary much from year to year.  In other cases, establishing actual income can be difficult, but manageable.  The best examples of when income is hard to determine is when someone has an all cash business; the person changes jobs frequently; income or large bonuses vary greatly from year to year, or, the person is well qualified to work, but is choosing not to or claims that he or she is unable to find employment.  If one of these or a similar situation applies in your case, it is vital you speak with an attorney familiar with such child support issues.

Let us help you make sure that the correct amount of child support is being paid.  Contact us today to discuss your support issues. 

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