Child support is defined as the ongoing obligation for a periodic payment made from the non-custodial to the custodial parent, caregiver, or guardian, specifically for the care and support of children born of a relationship or marriage that has been terminated. The theory behind child support is based on a policy that both parents are obligated to pay for the support of their children whether or not they are living with both biological parents. One parent may have primary custody of the children, where the non-custodial parent may be given visitation rights. In such cases, the non-custodial parent is obligated to pay a portion of costs involved in raising the children. Even if the paying parent is obligated to make regular payments, he or she may not have any authority or decision-making in the child’s upbringing. It is not necessary for the two parents to be married.
The basic child support obligation can be established in accordance to North Carolina state law by the following factors:
- The income of both of the parents;
- Any already existing child support awards;
- Any other children already living with either parent;
- Payments of any work-related child care costs;
- Health insurance premium costs;
- And occasionally any other extraordinary expenses pertaining to the child.
A primary custodial parent is recognized as having care of the child for more than 243 days per year. When the parties share physical custody, they each must have the child for at least 123 overnight stays throughout one year. Split custody is also considered, and is when there is more than one child involved and each parent has primary physical custody of at least one child each. In North Carolina, child support is established by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. Grounds may exist to deviate from the guidelines.
Child support orders can be modified if need be. Some examples for modification of child support orders are increase or decrease in either parents’ incomes, any changes in physical custody, or any possible increased needs of the child such as medical or educational treatments.
Child support payments continue until the first of the following occurs:
- The child reaches the age of 18;
- The child chooses to become emancipated from either or both parents;
- If the child is still attending high school and reaches the age of 18, then it is until he or she has graduated, otherwise ceasing to attend school on a regular basis, failing to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation, or reaches the age of 20, whichever may happen first.
Child support cannot be terminated because the custodial parent is failing to follow a custody order. Child support is specifically intended to provide for the needs of the minor child in consideration and is not by any means a desire to punish a disobedient or otherwise neglectful parent.