Child Support

How Much Child Support Should You Pay or Receive?

North Carolina utilizes a uniform set of child support guidelines which make it relatively easy to determine the proper support order in most cases. For all families with annual combined parental income of $360,000 (meaning the sum of the income of both parents of the child, as if the family still lived together in the same household), the process goes as follows: (1) each parent's annual gross income is entered into the appropriate support worksheet; (2) a reduction to gross income is made for either parent that has another biological child or children to support; and (3) credits are granted to either parent who is paying the cost of the minor child’s health insurance, day care, or other “extraordinary expense” (for example, the cost of a specialty school for a child who has severe dyslexia, is blind, or has another serious medical condition). Based on all this information, the guidelines allow a calculation of the presumptive support order for the child and will, in general, resolve the issue of support. Either parent can attempt to prove guideline support is not the appropriate order in their case, but the burden of proof is on the parent to convince the court guideline support is either inadequate to meet the needs of the child or exceeds the needs of the child.

A child swings on a playground. Clemmons Family Law attorneys can help with child support needs. Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

When the combined gross annual income of the parents exceeds $360,000, the presumptive guidelines do not apply and the calculation of appropriate support becomes considerably more complex. Support is calculated based on the child's actual past expenditures and reasonable needs, as well as the abilities of each parent to pay. This calculation requires substantially more evidentiary analysis.

In North Carolina, parents have no duty to support children beyond high school graduation, unless the child is still age 17 at graduation. In these cases, parents must continue support until age 18. Parents do not have a legal obligation to pay for college in North Carolina, and judges do not have the power to order otherwise. It is possible for parents to negotiate payment of college expenses either in a settlement agreement or a consent order for support. Only in these cases can a parent be required to pay.

Modification of support is generally easier than modification of child custody. The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines contemplate a review of support every three years. Provided a difference of at least 15% exists between the original support order and the support order at the three-year mark, substantially changed circumstances warranting a modification of support are established. Beyond the three-year mark, modification of support may still be appropriate but the parent seeking the modification has the burden of proving substantially changed circumstances justifying modification. A significant involuntary decrease in the paying parent's income may satisfy the changed circumstances requirement to reduce a support order. However, a voluntary decrease in a paying parent's income should be insufficient to reduce a support order.

Clemmons Family Law Can Help With Your Support Needs

At Clemmons Family Law, we know appropriate child support orders are essential to meet the needs of children and that any order should be fair to both parents based on the circumstances of each case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss your support needs. Call us by phone at 336-766-2222 or email us at

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