All parents are legally responsible for supporting their children, regardless of whether there is a court order or not. But once a court order has been issued for the non-custodial parent to pay a certain amount in child support, failing to make payments could lead to serious consequences.
Child support arrears refers to unpaid or past-due child support. When the non-custodial parent gets behind on their payments or stops paying altogether, the outstanding amount adds up and becomes in arrears.
A parent can only be in arrears if a child support order or written agreement is in place. Parents that want to collect on past-due support need to have an official court order or notarized agreement that specifies who must pay and for how much. If you have questions about child support arrears, our Charlotte, NC family law attorneys are willing to help.
How North Carolina Collects Back Child Support
The state of North Carolina has laws in place to address parents who fail to pay court-ordered child support. Non-custodial parents that do not pay may be in contempt of the court. Contempt of court is when an individual intentionally disobeys a court order, which can lead to a payment of a fine, attorney fees, and costs being awarded to the parent who followed the order terms.
Other potential consequences of failing to pay child support include time in jail and a requirement to participate in income withholdings. The North Carolina Child Support Enforcement Agency also has other measures to help collect payments that are in arrears. Steps that the agency may take include:
- Collecting funds from other income sources: If a non-custodial parent has failed to pay court-ordered child support payments, the state can collect past due amounts from other income sources like unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, veteran disability benefits, and social security benefits.
- Intercept tax refunds: If a non-custodial parent has more than $50 in arrears, North Carolina’s Child Support Enforcement may intercept the parent’s state tax refund to collect funds. If more than $500 is in arrears, the agency can intercept the parent’s federal tax refund.
- Driver’s license suspension: The CSE may suspend the non-custodial parent’s driver’s license if they are more than 90 days past due.
- Liens: The CSE may put a lien on personal or real property owned by the non-custodial parent if they have back child support payments.
- Professional license suspension: If the non-custodial parent is more than 90 days past due, the CSE may request the parent’s professional license be suspended if applicable.
Situations where arrears can be forgiven
In most cases, arrears cannot be forgiven in North Carolina. The only situation where arrears can be forgiven is if the custodial parent chooses to do so. The parent can do so through an order of the court or a negotiated consent order.
North Carolina Child Support Statute of Limitations
In most cases, child support is ordered to be paid up until the child is 18 years of age and has graduated from high school. In North Carolina, a child support order is a judgment that is good for a 10-year term from the date the payment is due.
If there is money in arrears at the time your child turns 18, the parent that is owed the support can file to renew a new judgment that can last for another 10 years.
For non-custodial parents who owe back support, this means that they can be responsible for paying support until the child turns 28 years old. Owing back child support could potentially mean being denied access to loans, damaged credit, and being required to pay support in arrears before selling a property.
Can child support be collected retroactively?
If you waited to file child support and have decided to pursue it, it is possible to collect it retroactively if your children are still minors. In 2014, the case law under Loosevelt v. Brown established that a parent could be required to pay child support-related expenses incurred before the custodial parent filed a complaint for child support.
The parent seeking retroactive child support payments must provide adequate evidence of past expenses related to the child. These expenses must also be reasonably necessary. Examples of acceptable child-related expenses include:
- Nursery expenses after birth
- Daycare expenses
- Baby food, formula, diapers, and clothing
- Medical expenses related to birth
For custodial parents that want to file a claim for retroactive child support, there is a three-year statute of limitations.
Spouse is Making No or Partial Monthly Payments: What to Do Next
The next action you’ll need to take is to sue the parent ordered to pay child support for any unpaid amounts. If the child was on public assistance during a period where support was owed, it is possible that the Division of Social Services (DSS) will sue the responsible parent as well.
Any unpaid child support should be reported to the DSS as soon as the payment becomes overdue. By doing so, DSS and the court can create a record that will be used to enforce child support payments as they accrue.
Skilled and Experienced Representation in Charlotte, North Carolina
At Remington & Dixon PLLC, we are your Charlotte family law firm here to help. We are dedicated to providing our clients with top-notch service and proper support. Our child custody lawyers can help you navigate the child support process and advocate on your behalf. But we can also help enforce a child support order in the event the responsible parent is unwilling to pay. Contact us to schedule a consultation.
Child Support FAQs
Is there interest placed on child support arrears?
Does child support continue through age 18 or if the child is in college?
- The child stopped attending school regularly
- The child failed to make satisfactory academic progress
- The child turned 20 years of age, regardless of their high school graduation status
If the child is attending college, the parties can add a clause to their separation agreement or agree by consent order that the paying parent will continue to make support payments through college.
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.