New child support guidelines are required to go into effect on 1 October 2010 but will likely be delayed until 1 January 2011. It is expected that non custodial parents will be expected to pay more child support. The current child support guidelines were released four years ago in October 2006. According to the consumer price index, the cost of living has increased more than 8% over the past four years.
In accordance with state law, the Conference of Chief District Court Judges reviews the statewide presumptive child support guidelines every four years. The Public was invited to comment by 15 April 2010 and a public hearing was held 22 April 2010 in Raleigh. The new guidelines will be published at nccourts.org and replace the current guidelines in effect.
North Carolina’s child support guidelines apply as a rebuttable presumption in all legal proceedings involving the child support obligation of a parent. The guidelines are based on the “income shares” model which is based on the concept that child support is a shared parental obligation and that a child should receive the same proportion of parental income he or she would have received if the child’s parents lived together.
The child support schedule that is a part of the guidelines is based on economic data which represent adjusted estimates of average total household spending for children between birth and age 18, excluding child care, health insurance, and health care costs in excess of $250 per year. Expenses incurred in the exercise of visitation are not factored into the guidelines. The guidelines assume that the parent who receives child support claims the tax exemptions for the child. If the parent who receives child support has minimal or no income tax liability, the court may consider requiring the custodial parent to assign the exemption to the supporting parent and deviate from the guidelines.
Since the last guidelines were implemented, the minimum wage in North Carolina has increased forty-one percent from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. Minimum wage is often used as imputed income to a parent who is voluntarily unemployed but capable of working. As the combined income of the parents increases, the amount of the basic child support obligation under the “income shares” model increases. Therefore, for families where minimum wage was used to impute income (e.g., stay-at-home moms), the income used under the new guidelines will be higher. This combined with new guidelines is expected to require even higher child support payments under the new guidelines.
Motions to Modify
Parents may file motions with the Court to modify child support obligations whenever there is a substantial change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. The party seeking the modification has the burden of proof. Substantial increases or decreases in the child’s needs, changes in income of the parents, and other factors may satisfy the requirement to show a substantial change of circumstances. A substantial change of circumstances is presumed whenever three years or more has passed since the entry of the last child support order and a difference of 15% or more payable under the existing order and application of the current guidelines would result. When there has been less than three years since the entry of the prior order, a new order may be entered on a motion to modify if substantial change of circumstances is shown.
With the new child support guidelines and families struggling in the current economy, it is expected that significant numbers of custodial parents will file motions to increase child support and non-custodial parents will defend such motions.