Oftentimes parents are unfamiliar with the rights that their children have when it comes to support from both of their parents, resulting in a child not receiving the financial support that they are entitled to. This usually happens in a few typical situations.
First, child support may have been awarded earlier in the child’s life, but for whatever reason the parent paying the child support stopped and the other parent never pursued it.
Second, child support may have been awarded earlier in the child’s life and while the parent paying that support is current on the support, the other parent has discovered that the parent that owes support now makes a substantial amount more and should increase their support accordingly.
Finally, a parent may have for whatever reason not sought child support from the other parent, either because they could not locate the parent or did not believe that they needed the support. North Carolina specifically authorizes back child support in cases where a parent had not sought child support in the past.
In all of these cases, the child is still entitled to financial support from both parents no matter what the circumstances and situation, and there are mechanisms in North Carolina to enforce a child support award.
What Is Child Support?
Many parents may not seek child support because they do not understand exactly what child support can encompass. Child support in its basic form is monetary support for raising the child, but it goes far beyond just basic necessities such as food in clothing. Child support is meant to cover a broad range of expenses, which may include schools fees, medical expenses, extracurricular activities and entertainment costs.
Courts do not require a parent to prove that the child support payments they receive go toward actually supporting the child unless the child’s basic needs are not being met. Most courts assume that the parent with physical custody of the child is using the child support money to raise the child. Therefore, courts will not monitor or police the parent receiving child support.
Establishing Child Support
In order to collect child support, a legal order must be obtained from a family court that specifies the amount of support to be paid for the benefit of a child. In the case of a divorce, whether or not child support will be ordered and the amount of child support is usually established at the time that custody is decided. The parent with physical custody of the child will be the one taking care of the child day to day and therefore is the one who will be collecting child support from the other parent.
In the case where the father is unknown or a parent cannot be located, establishing child support depends largely on locating the noncustodial parent and proving paternity, usually through blood or tissue samples provided to be used for testing.
How much a parent will have to pay in child support is based on balancing two interests: the needs of the child or children and the ability of the parents to pay. When determining how much a parent will have to pay in child support, a North Carolina judge consults and uses and the Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines dictate how much a parent should pay for the child based on their income, the needs of the child and any other relevant factors.
What Happens If They Do Not Pay
Having an order for child support is no guarantee that a parent will actually pay. Many parents wrongly believe that just because if they do not want to be involved with their child’s life, they do not have to pay child support. Nothing could be further from the truth. North Carolina and all states have a strong public interest in ensuring that parents support their children, both to give the child the best upbringing possible and to ensure that the child and family do not become a burden on the public system.
To this end, there are numerous tools in the state’s arsenal to reach parents who do not pay their child support. The single most powerful one of these tools is income withholding by employers. This is accomplished by informing the parent’s employer and deducting a specified amount each month and sending it to the North Carolina Child Support Centralized Collections within seven days of the deduction. Even if the noncustodial parent lives in a different state, employers may be required to comply with a North Carolina deduction for child support.
Income withholding can be initiated with other entities besides employers. Income can be withheld for child support from:
- Unemployment Benefits
- Workers’ Compensation
- Social Security Benefits
- Veterans’ Disability Benefits
Even if the non-paying parent has minimal income, this does not excuse them from contributing to child support. North Carolina may seek to enforce an order for child support by:
- Billing non-paying parents who are not under income withholding
- Reporting the non-paying parent to credit bureaus
- Intercepting state and federal tax refunds
- Putting a lien on real or personal property owned by the non-paying parent
In the most extreme cases, a non-paying parent may have further legal action taken against them. If an order to pay is entered against a non-paying parent and the parent continues to not pay, a warrant may be put out for their arrest due to being in contempt of court.
North Carolina Agencies and Services
For a parent struggling to collect child support, North Carolina offers a variety of services and government assistance.
- The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Child Support Enforcement Services;
- The North Carolina Child Support Enforcement Website; and
- The North Carolina Child Support Enforcement Contact Information
A North Carolina Family Law Attorney May Be Able to Help You Obtain the Child Support You and Your Child Deserve
A North Carolina family attorney may be able to advise you on your best course of action when seeking to collect child support that you are owed or believe that your child may be entitled to. If you are in the unfortunate situation of seeking back child support or having difficulty establishing paternity for your child in order to seek child support, contact the experienced family law attorneys at our Charlotte based law firm of Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Our family law attorneys can put their years of experience to work for you and zealously pursue the support that your children needs. Contact us today by phone, or visit us online to schedule a free confidential consultation for your case.
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.