North Carolina Child Support Laws and Guidelines

The laws governing child support in North Carolina are different from that of other states. NC child support law sets how much the child maintenance should be, and the duration of such payments, plus it seeks to guide parents in exceptional cases such as deviation, support for disabled children, and retroactive support.

As you may already know, child support (or child maintenance) is a continuous monetary payment made by a spouse to another spouse, guardian, caregiver,  or the state for the upkeep of children after a divorce or separation.

The person who is required to pay child support is referred to as the “obligor,” whereas the person who is eligible to receive child maintenance is referred to as the “obligee.”

What are NC Child Support Laws?

North Carolina Child Support Laws are designed to ensure that children receive the financial support they need from both parents. These laws outline the process for determining the amount of child support to be paid and the methods for enforcing child support orders. The following is a more detailed explanation of the key elements of North Carolina Child Support Laws:

  1. Purpose: The main purpose of child support laws in North Carolina is to ensure that children receive the financial support they need to meet their basic needs and maintain a standard of living that is consistent with their parent’s financial means.
  2. Determination of Child Support: The amount of child support to be paid is determined using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines consider the income of both parents and the number of children for whom support is being paid. The guidelines are designed to ensure that children receive a fair and consistent level of support, regardless of the parent’s individual circumstances.
  3. Modification of Child Support Orders: Child support orders may be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as a change in either parent’s income or the needs of the children. A parent seeking a modification of a child support order must file a motion with the court and attend a hearing.
  4. Enforcement of Child Support Orders: If a parent fails to pay child support as ordered, the parent seeking enforcement may use various enforcement mechanisms, such as wage garnishment, seizure of property, or even jail time, to collect the owed child support.

What does Child Support Cover in North Carolina?

Child support in North Carolina covers the basic needs of the child, including food, clothing, housing, and medical expenses. This support is meant to provide for the child’s general welfare and to ensure that the child’s standard of living is consistent with that of the parents. Child support may also cover other expenses such as educational expenses, childcare costs, and extracurricular activities.

Child Support When One Parent Lives Outside North Carolina

To enforce child support orders beyond state boundaries, each state has to have the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) in place. North Carolina is no exception.

The UIFSA ensures that child support processes and procedures are consistent across states. When one spouse lives in another state where the North Carolina courts do not have the authority to adjudicate or enforce orders, UIFSA reduces these bottlenecks.

As a result of the UIFSA, an NC child support attorney can take legal action against a spouse who now lives in another state to enforce a child support order.

How is Child Maintenance Calculated In North Carolina?

How Child Maintenance Calculated In North Carolina

Learn How Child Maintenance Calculated In North Carolina

To calculate child maintenance, North Carolina uses the NC Income Shares Model/Percentage of Income Model/Melson Formula. This can be done easily using the North Carolina Child Support Calculator or Child Support Worksheet.

It is based on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The following is an outline of the steps involved in calculating child support in North Carolina:

  1. Determine the combined income of both parents: The first step in calculating child support is to determine the combined gross income of both parents. Gross income includes all forms of income, including wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, and self-employment income.
  2. Apply the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines: The next step is to use the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines to determine the basic child support obligation. The guidelines take into account the combined income of both parents and the number of children for whom support is being paid. The guidelines provide a table that indicates the basic child support obligation based on the combined income of the parents and the number of children.
  3. Adjust for additional expenses: The basic child support obligation may be adjusted to account for additional expenses such as medical expenses, child care costs, and educational expenses.
  4. Allocate support between parents: Once the basic child support obligation has been determined, it is divided between the parents based on their respective income levels.

North Carolina Child Support Calculator or Worksheet

While a child support calculator can be used to estimate child support, it is not a guarantee of the final amount of child maintenance that the judge will order. A child support worksheet is a form used by the NC courts (or negotiating spouses) to approximate the basic child support obligation of the parents.

Regardless of which approach you use, spouses can decide on a child support sum and amend the worksheet accordingly to ensure it accurately reflects their agreement. Both establish a presumption duty to pay child support.

The final decision on the amount of child support is made by the administrative law judge, administrator, or court.

How North Carolina Guidelines are Applied

The NC court will use child support guidelines, which are law-based and are sometimes known simply as “Guidelines.  Guidelines establish a fundamental minimum amount of child maintenance, from which the court can differ after considering a variety of considerations.

The criteria are believed to be rational, and a decision of support that conforms to the guidelines is believed to be in the best interest of the child,” according to the guidelines.

The North Carolina Guidelines are based on Net Monthly Income. The court also will employ one of two methods after determining Net Monthly Income:

1. The first method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is less than $7,500.00. The judge will consider the number of children in the household who are the subject of the petition in this case (note that a different calculation applies if an obligor has children in two different households).

2. The second method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is more than $7,500.00.

Gross Income Included in Calculating Child Maintenance

For child support calculation purposes, gross income includes:

  • all wages and salary, including commissions, military pay, tips, overtime, and bonuses
  • self-employment income
  • interest and dividends
  • net rental income from property the parent owns

Even jobless parents are likely to have some sources of income, like:

  • severance pay
  • unemployment benefits
  • retirement benefits
  • veterans’ benefits
  • disability benefits, or
  • workers’ compensation awards.

An NC family court judge may also allocate an income value to parents who do not currently have income-earning employment (like a second house). If a jobless parent inherits assets that can be sold, for instance, the judge may include the property’s market value as a part of such parent’s income.

Where parents willfully go unemployed or underemployed in order to avoid paying child support, judges may infer (assign) income based on what they are supposed to be earning.

Net Income for NC Guidelines

How to determine Net Income for NC child support

How to determine Net Income for NC child support

Remove the following costs from the total gross income to get the parent’s net income for paying child support in North Carolina:

  • Social Security taxes, or any mandated retirement plan contributions if the parent does not pay those taxes.
  • Income taxes, both federal and state (based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one exemption)
  • union dues
  • The NC court has ruled the parent to pay the child’s health and dental insurance premiums, as well as additional medical bills.

Parents who have already paid child support for another kid or children (from a previous relationship) may be eligible for a refund.

Is Medical Health Insurance Part of Child Support in North Carolina?

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in North Carolina

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in North Carolina

Yes, in addition to the amount of support determined by the guidelines in North Carolina, the parents will be responsible for the child’s health and dental insurance.

Whereas the noncustodial parent is presumed to provide coverage, this can readily be transferred to the other parent if it makes good sense.

For instance, suppose the custodial parent’s employer offers healthcare insurance for the dependent but the noncustodial parent does not.

Factors North Carolina Courts Consider Before Ordering Maintenance

The following factors must be considered by the court when determining whether North Carolina Family Code applies:

  • The age of the child and needs; the parents’ ability to assist
  • Financial resources available to the child
  • For a set period of time, you have custody and access to a child.
  • An increase or decrease in the obligee’s earnings or income due to the obligee’s property and assets
  • Childcare expenses incurred by either parent in order to keep a job
  • any other children under the care of either party
  • Any other children under the care of either party
  • What kind of alimony or spousal maintenance is being paid or received;
  • Obligor or obligee receives an automobile, house, or other benefits from his or her employer or business entity.
  • The parties or the child’s special education, health care, or other expenses
  • The cost of traveling to obtain custody of and access to a child.
  • Cash flow from any estate and assets, including real estate, personal property, and business property, can be positive or negative.

How to Challenge or Modify Child Support Order

A parent must show that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances in order to alter child support. A North Carolina court may consider an alteration if:

  • a parent’s employment has been lost,
  • migrated to another country,
  • Alternatively, if the custody agreement has changed.

If a parent in North Carolina wants to challenge or modify a child support order, the following steps should be followed:

  1. Determine the grounds for modification: The first step in challenging or modifying a child support order is to determine if there is a valid reason for doing so. A valid reason may include a change in either parent’s income, a change in the needs of the child, or a change in the amount of time the child spends with each parent.
  2. File a motion to modify: The next step is to file a motion to modify the child support order with the court that issued the original order. The motion should include a detailed explanation of the reason for the requested modification and any supporting documentation.
  3. Attend a hearing: The court will set a hearing date to consider the motion to modify. Both parents are expected to attend the hearing, and each may present evidence and testimony to support their position.
  4. Consider mediation: If the parents cannot agree on a modification, the court may order them to attend mediation. Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps the parents reach an agreement.
  5. The court will make a decision: After the hearing or mediation, the court will make a decision on the motion to modify. If the court decides to modify the child support order, it will issue a new order that reflects the changes.

Steps to Collect Child Support in North Carolina

Steps to Collect Child Support in North Carolina

Steps to Collect Child Support in North Carolina

Getting a child support order in place is only half the struggle in North Carolina. You’ll also have to collect the money itself. A noncustodial parent is responsible for paying the full amount of child maintenance per month as imposed by the court. Here are the steps for getting child support in NC

1. Open a Child Support Case

Complete a child support application with your local child support agency/office

2. Locate the Other Parent

To begin the child maintenance procedure in NC, the child support services (CSS) office will use the information provided by the applying parent, as well as information gathered from other sources, to try to locate the other parent.

3. Establish Parentage

It’s critical to establish a legitimate relationship with the child when the other parent has been located. The state will assist you in locating sufficient means. Parents can choose to acknowledge their parentage voluntarily or organize a genetic screening.

4. Establish a Child Support Order

A North Carolina child support order specifies how much the other parent should pay and includes details such as the payment schedule and provisions for the child’s health insurance.

5. Set Up Payment

Deducting child maintenance from a parent’s paycheck and transferring the money to the other parent or guardian is the most typical method of payment. It’s a simple way to make and track child support payments.

6. Enforce the Support Order

Your NC child support services will enforce the child support order if the noncustodial parent does not pay the full amount or does not pay any. Exposing overdue child support payments to credit bureaus, intercepting income tax refunds, and Withholding child maintenance from unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits are examples of other enforcement measures.

7. Review the Order

Three years after the order is issued, either parent can request their local child support office to revise it. They can ask for a reassessment sooner than three years if a parent’s situation has changed significantly, such as loss of employment or imprisonment.

North Carolina Child Support Services Office, Number, and Login Portal

Office – North Carolina Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) within the Department of Health and Human Services
316 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601, United States
Phone Number+1 919-856-6630
Online Login Portal –

Retroactive Child Support and Arrears

Consequences of not paying child support orders in North Carolina can include:

  1. Wage garnishment: Child support can be automatically deducted from the non-custodial parent’s wages.
  2. Liens: A lien can be placed on the non-custodial parent’s property, such as a house or car, to secure payment of the child support owed.
  3. Credit Bureau Reporting: Non-payment of child support can be reported to credit bureaus, which can negatively impact the non-custodial parent’s credit score.
  4. Suspension of licenses: In some cases, licenses, such as a driver’s license or professional license, can be suspended for non-payment of child support.
  5. Jail time: Non-payment of child support can result in jail time, although this is usually a last resort.
  6. Passport denial: The U.S. State Department may deny, revoke, or limit the non-custodial parent’s passport if they owe a substantial amount of child support.
  7. Contempt of court: The non-custodial parent may be held in contempt of court for failing to pay child support as ordered by the court.

Enforcing retroactive child support payments in North Carolina can be done through the Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) within the Department of Health and Human Services. The following are the steps to enforce retroactive child support payments in NC:

  1. Establish a child support order: In order to enforce retroactive child support payments, an order must first be established by a court.
  2. Contact the DCSE: The custodial parent can contact the DCSE to request assistance in collecting the retroactive child support payments. The DCSE can help locate the non-custodial parent, establish paternity, and enforce the child support order.
  3. File a complaint: If the non-custodial parent fails to pay the retroactive child support, the custodial parent can file a complaint with the court to have the non-custodial parent held in contempt of court.
  4. Attend a hearing: If a complaint is filed, the non-custodial parent may be ordered to attend a hearing to explain why they have not paid the retroactive child support.
  5. Judgment enforcement: If the non-custodial parent does not attend the hearing or does not have a valid excuse for not paying the retroactive child support, the court may issue a judgment to enforce the payment of the retroactive child support.

If you feel the arrears are being demanded wrongly, you can learn how to get child support arrears dismissed HERE.

How to Pay Child Maintenance in North Carolina

In North Carolina, parents can pay child maintenance in a variety of ways, as long as your order doesn’t state otherwise:

  • by debit or credit card,
  • mail,
  • check
  • bank transfer
  • direct deposit
  • income withholding, or
  • auto-draft from a bank account.

How to Check your Child Support Payment History in NC

Child Support Payment History in NC

How to Check Child Support Payment History in NC

When there are disagreements between the parents and a need to confirm how much money is owed, child support payment records are extremely beneficial.

When Does Child Support End in North Carolina?

The North Carolina court “may order that one or both parents to support a child until:

  • the child is 18 years or finishes high school (whichever comes last),
  • the child emancipates by getting married,
  • the child’s disabilities are removed, or
  • the child dies.

Nevertheless, if the judge determines that the child is disabled (physically or mentally), the child can receive support perpetually.Custody Rights of a Child in North Carolina

Understanding Custody Rights of a Child in North Carolina

How Does NC Child Support Work if one Parent Has no Job?

If one parent is unemployed or has a low income, the court may impute income to that parent based on their earning potential or prior earnings.

If a parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, the court may also impute income to them to ensure that the child support calculation accurately reflects their ability to pay.

If a parent is unable to work due to a physical or mental disability, the court may take this into consideration when determining child support. The court may also consider the cost of any necessary medical or therapeutic treatment when calculating child support.

If a parent is unable to work due to job loss or other factors outside of their control, the court may consider a modification of the child support order. The parent may need to provide evidence of their job search efforts and their current financial situation to the court.

Is Child Support Tax Deductible in North Carolina?

NO. In North Carolina, child support payments are neither taxable to the recipient nor tax-deductible by the payer as stated by the IRS. Don’t include child support payments when calculating your gross income to see whether you have to file a tax return.

However, either parent may be eligible for a dependency exemption per child. If the parents can’t agree on who receives the exemption, the judge will set out the terms in a court order.

Getting a Skilled North Carolina Child Support Attorney

If you are involved in a family law matter in North Carolina, you may have a lot more questions than answers at this moment. You are not alone; Correspondence with members has shown that using the services of specialized child support attorneys saves a lot of hassles and most importantly, ensures you come out as a winner for you and your kid.

If you need to fight your child maintenance cause in NC with confidence, then you’ll need attorneys that are both empathetic and strong.

Luckily, we have compiled a database of these expert child support lawyers and made them available for the convenience of our members. You can reach them at the click of a button for legal advice and representation on child maintenance.

Click Here to Get our Free North Carolina Alimony recommendation.

North Carolina Resource

- North Carolina Child Adoption Guidelines
- North Carolina Childcare Guidelines
- North Carolina Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
- North Carolina Child Support Guidelines
- North Carolina Divorce Guidelines
- North Carolina Marital Property Guidelines
- North Carolina Spousal Support Guidelines
- How to Check North Carolina Child Support Payment History
- North Carolina Child Support Calculator
- North Carolina Grants and Assistance for Single Mothers


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Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.