Image shows a close up of an adorable baby with big brown eyes being held by a serene-looking father whose face is in profile, with his forehead touching the side of the baby's head. It's a precious moment. Text for this page: What is Child Support? Parents are required by North Carolina law to financially support their children. Their obligation does not end until their children are 18 years old or have graduated from high school, whichever occurs last. If a child is not mentally or physically able to support himself or herself, the parents may be required to continue with financial support. When a couple separates or divorces, each parent must contribute a set amount of child support money which is usually determined by calculating the proportion his or her income contributes to their total combined income amount. How are Child Support Payments Calculated? Child Support amounts are calculated using the statutory tables found in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. In some situations, the guidelines are not appropriate so support amounts are determined through an analysis of the needs of the child. The state guidelines apply to parents who have a combined annual gross income of $300,000 or less. If their combined annual income is more than $300,000, the parents can work out child support payments themselves; or if they cannot agree, the court will decide what their financial obligations are to their child or children. The Child Support Guidelines employ different worksheets depending on the actual physical split of custodial overnights. When the non-custodial parent has less than 123 overnights with the child, worksheet A is used to compute child support. When the non-custodial parent has more than 123 overnights with the child, worksheet B is generally used which results in a lower support amount. Making Child Support Payments After the amount of the child support payments has been determined and the payment dates and method of payment established, it is essential that the payments be made on time. For convenience, payments can be set up to coincide with the paying parent’s payday whether it is weekly, monthly or at other intervals. If the paying parent fails to make payments on time, he or she can be subjected to substantial penalties. If support is being paid pursuant to a court order, it can be paid directly to the custodial parent or by sending payment to the North Carolina Child Support Agency in Raleigh, North Carolina; or it can be paid through wage withholding unless the payer is self-employed. Child Support Payment Enforcement When the paying parent fails to make his or her child support payments, the ex-spouse can file a legal action to have them found in contempt of court. The North Carolina courts and Child Support Enforcement Agency take the matter of child support non-payment seriously. A judge will force the non-paying parent to pay the amount owed and may order penalties such as wage garnishment, tax refund penalties, property seizure, attorney fees or even time in jail. Modifying Child Support Agreements or Orders The paying parent may petition the court for a modification of his or her child support payment. For the court to grant a modification, you must prove that a substantial change in your circumstances – or the circumstances of your ex-spouse or child – must have occurred since your last support order became effective. There is a presumption that a support order over three years old is subject to modification if there is a 15% difference between the amount currently ordered to be paid and the amount that would be paid if based on a current application of the guidelines recalculating the parent’s current income. Keywords for this page are: Child Custody Issues in NC Divorce and Family Law. NC Child Custody. NC Child Custody Issues. North Carolina Child Custody. NC Child Visitation Rights. NC Grandparent’s Rights. Grandparent’s Rights in NC. NC Child Custody Types. Types of NC Custody. Visitation Rights in NC. NC Child Visitation Rights. NC Child Custody Awards. Award Child Custody NC. NC Child Custody Process. Child Support Issues in NC Divorce and Family Law. NC Child Support. NC Child Support issues. North Carolina Child Support. NC Child Support Payments. NC Child Support Awards. Award Child Support NC. NC Child Support Process. Child Support in NC. Calculate NC Child Support. Calculating NC Child Support. NC Child Support Agreements. NC Child Support Orders. Enforce NC Support Payments. Enforcing NC Support Payments. Enforce NC Child Support. Enforcing NC Child Support. Modifying NC Child Support. Modifying NC Support Payments. Modifying NC Support Agreements. Modifying NC Support Orders.

Child Custody

Child Custody Issues in NC Divorce and Family Law

  • How Child Custody is Awarded in NC
  • The Child Custody Legal Process
  • Types of Child Custody
  • Visitation Rights
  • Grandparents Visitation and Custody Rights
  • Do You Need a Child Custody Attorney?

How Child Custody is Awarded in NC

Child custody arrangements determine how separated or divorced parents will share the rights and responsibilities of their children’s lives and welfare. The focus of a custody arrangement is always the best interests of the child.

In North Carolina, there is no presumption that the mother is a better parent than the father, children are not allowed to determine with whom they will live – although in some situations, the judge may consider the child’s preferences. Only children under 18 years of age are subject to custody arrangements unless they are disabled.

Either agreement is subject to approval of the court. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the matter of custody is brought before a judge who decides the issues.

The Child Custody Legal Process

Usually, child custody arrangements are made voluntarily by the parents. The agreed-upon terms can be made part of their separation agreement or they can draft a separate parenting agreement. In either case, it is a good idea to obtain a consent order from the court to formalize the terms of the custody agreement. This can help to minimize future disagreements and makes enforcement of the agreement easier should that become necessary.

If the divorcing parents are unable to agree on terms of child custody, mediation may be a good next step – especially since mediation will be mandatory if a child custody lawsuit is filed. Mediation involves the parents meeting with a neutral mediator without their attorneys present. If the custody issues cannot be resolved with the mediator, a lawsuit will be filed, litigated and a judge will decide the terms of child custody.

Types of Child Custody

There are several custody designations – physical custody and legal custody, sole custody and joint custody, and emergency custody. The custody arrangement should be practical for both parents. Both parents should be able to have a steady, relevant presence in the life or lives of their child or children.

Physical custody indicates with whom a child or the children will physically live. Legal Custody indicates who has power to make decisions relating to the care and welfare of their child or children – such as medical and educational decisions, religious decisions and other decisions that come with routine daily living.

Sole custody gives one parent the authority to make all the decisions relating to their child or children. Sole Custody is rarely granted unless there is evidence of physical or sexual abuse.

Joint custody provides for both parents to share decision-making authority in all matters relating to their child or children, including physical custody issues. Most child custody arrangements are joint arrangements, whereby one parent has primary physical custody and the other has secondary physical custody.

Emergency custody is granted by the court if a child or the children are in danger of being physically harmed or sexually abused. It is also granted if there is a substantial likelihood a child or the children may be taken by one parent to another state to escape North Carolina court jurisdiction. Emergency custody claims are heard “ex parte” meaning the opposing party is not given notice of the hearing due to its emergency nature.  However, the opposing party must be notice and an opportunity to be heard within a reasonable time.

The potential for abuse of these claims is great. The entry of an ex parte order can substantially prejudice the other party. Proving the need for emergency custody is a threshold not easily reached in most North Carolina counties.

Visitation Rights

One parent can be awarded more physical time with their child or children than the other parent. This is called primary custody. In this event, the parent with less time is awarded visitation. If there is a history of domestic violence or drug abuse, the abusing parent may be limited to supervised visitation or even no visitation.

Visitation is a way to maintain a healthy relationship between the non-custodial parent and his or her child or children. In North Carolina, unwed parents are viewed the same as married parents with respect to their rights to their children.

Grandparents’ Visitation and Custody Rights

Grandparents have only limited rights to visitation or custody in North Carolina. Generally, grandparent’s time with their grandchildren is derivative of the time the children spend with their parents – in other words, the grandparents visit with their grandchildren only during the time the grandparents are visiting with their grandchildren’s parents.

In regard to custody, grandparents are viewed as third parties and have no special standing. Therefore, in order to gain custody, the grandparents have to prove the parents are either unfit or have acted contrary to their legally protected rights as parents.


Greenville NC Child Custody and Family Law
Attorney Cynthia Mills


Your future will be determined by the legal action you take today! Insure that you take the right path and secure what matters most to you and your family. Let me help you through the uncertainty and emotional stress of your family legal crisis with skill, experience and dedicated representation. Email or call me at 252-752-6161.