The N.C. Child Support Guidelines are used to determine a parent’s child support obligations for any case brought into court. The Guidelines are intended to provide a standard and efficient method to set child support that is fair to the child and both parents.
Parents who enter private support agreements are not obligated to use the Guidelines. They can modify the child support terms by mutual agreement. Sometimes a private agreement will require the parents to exchange financial information to recalculate child support periodically, and they can execute a new agreement to formalize the terms they choose.
Once child support is set by court order, the parents must comply with the terms or risk being found in contempt. If a supporting parent fails to pay the mandated child support when he had the ability to pay, the judge can put him in jail until he pays the full amount owed! If circumstances change and a parent truly cannot pay the amount ordered, he ought to file a motion to modify the child support order quickly, because no court order can be modified prior to the time a motion to modify is filed.
Only a judge can modify a court order. Circumstances may change to justify a modification of the child support obligation. There are many factors that a judge can be considered, such as an involuntary decrease in income, a change in the cost of insurance or child care, the birth of additional children, a child “ages out”, a change in the number of overnights a parent has with the children, or the child’s needs otherwise change. Child support may increase or decrease. The mere fact that a parent earns more does not automatically mean the child support payment will increase.
There is a simpler method for modifying child support. After three years pass from the date a child support order is entered, if the child support changes by at least 15%, then the child support order should be changed.
The Guidelines are updated about every four years. The latest Guidelines went into effect on January 1, 2015. Now may be the perfect time to reevaluate your child support order! Whether child support can be modified depends on a complex analysis of the facts and the law. You should consult with an experienced family lawyer for advice about your child support situation.