By Jim Warren
Separation and divorce can be a difficult process for childless couples, but issues of child custody and can add layers of complexity to the lives of spouses ending a marriage. I’m often asked how much child support my clients will receive. In most cases, the answer is pretty straightforward, but many cases have extenuating circumstances to consider.
While judges have wide discretion in certain matters of divorce and family law, such as amounts of alimony to award dependent spouses or awarding custody as to the best interests of the children, child support is often more straightforward element.
In our state, parents are expected to support their minor children until they become adults, defined as when they turn 18, graduate from high school (whichever occurs last between the two), or become emancipated by court order. Under no circumstances is child support paid once children reach the age of 20.
The North Carolina child support formula is set by the state’s Conference of Chief District Court Judges. The formula applies to working and middle class couples earning a combined adjusted income of $25,000 monthly ($300,000 on an annual basis). The guidelines also assume that the parent receiving child support also claims the tax exemption associated with the children. Based on the limited discretion of the courts, judges may reassign the tax exemption from one parent to another to properly balance the burden of child support.
In addition to having wider discretion with wealthier families ($300,000-plus in combined adjusted annual income), judges will also deviate from standard guidelines to address special needs of the children. For example, if a child lives with some kind of chronic illness or disability requiring specialized and frequent medical treatment, judges may work outside the guidelines to ensure that the dependent parent has enough support on a monthly basis from the supporting parent. Private school tuition and fees can be included in the calculation of support.
Several normal factors should determine how much child support you’ll receive (or pay) in North Carolina. Judges will review the following data to make an award in most normal circumstances:
· Gross monthly income for each parent (recurring income from W2 employment, self-employment, retirement benefits, gifts, rental property, etc.)
· Type of custody (primary or shared)
· Amounts paid (by either parent) for health insurance for the child or children
· Amounts paid for work-related daycare costs, if any
· Amounts paid under court order for child support (from previous marriages/relationships)
Here’s an example of how these principles apply. Spouse A earns $10,000 per month, while spouse B earns $5,000. Spouse B has primary custody of the child. In addition, spouse B pays health premiums for the child of $250 per month, $500 per month in after-school, work-related care, and $700 for private school to address a learning disability for the child.
With this set of parameters, the NC Child Support Calculator deems that spouse A’s obligation to support the child is $1,954 monthly, while spouse B is responsible for $977 a month.
If you’d like to work on some preliminary figures before consulting with Warren Family Law on your child support case, please use this link for a primary custody scenario, this link for a joint or shared custody scenario, and this link for split custody situations. Remember, matters of child custody and support may be visited and revisited at any time while children are still of minor age. We often see ex-spouses who want to renegotiate the terms of their support and/or custody based on changes in life circumstance. The North Carolina family courts and all officers of the court, from judges to attorneys, are committed to see that support awards are fair and reasonable, and above all else, made in the best interests of children.
Give our law office a call today to get started, if you wish the help of an experienced, dedicated attorney on your side.