Child Support Basics
How and why child support is calculated in North Carolina
Why Child Support is calculated the way it is:
Section 50-13.4 of the North Carolina General Statutes delegates the power to set child support standards to the District Court Judge’s Conference. The Judge’s set out a standard, based upon income of the parties, for the sum a child(ren) would expect to be spent on them if the parties were together in an intact family. For instance, if dad made $50,000 and mom made $75,000, their household income would be $125,000 and they would naturally spend more money on their children than if the dad didn’t work and the total household income was $75,000. In the 1st scenario, the child would naturally get $1,131 per month spent for its maintenance. In scenario 2, $873 per month would be spent on the same child. The Judge’s decided that just because mom and dad split up doesn’t mean the child should get any less support, so child support payments often seem inflated. After-all, when parties are not living together, the living expenses are drastically increased.
How child support is calculated:
Now that we know how much is going to be spent on the child, let’s find out who is responsible for it (we will use scenario 1 for illustrative purposes). That’s fairly simple; it is a ratio based on income. Since mom has 1.5x the income as dad, she would be responsible for 1.5x of the support. However, that’s not so cut and dries because support is not always in the form of a check, it may be in the form of the light bill or grocery bill. Thus, a very important consideration is custody i.e. where does the child lay its head down at night. The two most common scenarios we see is (1) one parent having primary custody and the other parent visiting on weekends (or similar limited visitation) or (2) the parents split custody pretty equally. If one parent has primary custody we use worksheet A. If the parties have joint custody, we use worksheet B. The primary distinction between A & B is 123 days, i.e. does the child spend more or less than 123 nights at the non-custodial parent’s house. Once we know which worksheet to use, we factor in other (limited) considerations. Other than income and overnights, the ONLY other factors that influence child support payment are: (1) pre-existing child support (2) # of other children, (3) work-related child-care costs, (4) health insurance premiums & (5) extraordinary expenses. The way each of those is factored in depends on the party, but for the purposes of this example, let’s just consider each a reduction for income. So in our scenario, if dad makes $50,000 per year but pays $1,000 per year for the child’s insurance, he really makes $49,000.
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