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How Is Child Support Calculated in North Carolina?


When the parents of a minor child separate or divorce in North Carolina, one may be required to pay a monthly amount to help cover the child’s expenses. Family law courts in the state use a set of guidelines to calculate the amount of the support that will be ordered. The calculation is largely based on each parent’s income and the amount of time each parent will care for the child or children. Additional expenses for childcare, medical care and other necessities are also taken into account. You can consult with a financial advisor who can guide you through the complexities of child support calculations.

Child Support Concepts

Child support is a monthly payment that one parent makes to the other parent following a divorce or separation involving minor children. Usually, the parent who is named primary or sole custodian receives child support payments from the other parent. Child support is used to ensure that the custodial parent has enough money to pay for the child’s expenses.

States use a variety of methods to determine the amount of the monthly payment required. North Carolina follows an approach similar to many other states, but with its own unique considerations.

North Carolina Child Support Basics

How child support is calculated in NC largely depends on income and the number of children involved.

North Carolina calculates how much child support will be largely based on income and the number of children involved. Another key factor is how much time the child will spend with each parent. In most cases, divorcing couples in North Carolina can use online worksheets provided by the state to estimate child support. There are three worksheets:

  • Worksheet A is for when one parent is named the primary custodian, defined as when children stay with one parent more than two-thirds of the time.
  • Worksheet B is for parents sharing joint shared custody. This is when children stay with each parent at least a third of the time.
  • Worksheet C is for when parents have split custody, this is when one child stays with one parent and another child stays with the other parent.

North Carolina uses a different method for high-income families, however. For families with an income of more than $30,000 monthly or $360,000 annually, there is no worksheet. Instead, the court looks at the specifics of each high-income case to determine an appropriate level of child support. For most families, however, the state-supplied worksheets generate a figure that is close to the final ordered amount.

How Child Support Is Calculated in NC

When you’re calculating child support in North Carolina, the first thing you’ll need to determine is which worksheet to use. You’ll select the worksheet that reflects the amount of time the children will spend with each parent according to the custody order.

Next, parents will determine their gross income. Gross income is pre-tax and generally refers to income from almost any source, including:

  • wages or salary
  • self-employment income
  • commissions and bonuses
  • dividends
  • severance pay
  • income from business ownership
  • rental income
  • earnings such as capital gains and interest from investments
  • retirement benefits including Social Security benefits and pension payments
  • annuity payouts
  • workers compensation and unemployment insurance
  • disability pay
  • alimony or spousal maintenance from a previous partner

Once they have their gross income, parents can deduct any child support payments for any other children, as well as the costs of providing for other children living in their home. Other expenses that can factor into the child support calculation include childcare costs required for the parent to work and health insurance premiums. Expenses for special education and travel may also be included in some cases.

North Carolina Child Support Examples

Below are three examples of child support amounts calculated by the North Carolina online worksheet for parents in three different custody situations. The parents have two children from this partnership and none from other partnerships.

The plaintiff, who is seeking support, has $4,000 in monthly income. The other parent, the defendant, has $6,000 in gross monthly income.

The plaintiff has $1,000 in monthly work-related childcare expenses, and the defendant pays $500 a month for health insurance premiums. Neither parent has other children or pre-existing support obligations, and there are no extra expenses. In this case:

  • When one parent is the primary custodian, using Worksheet A, the support amount is calculated as $1,547.
  • When parents have joint or shared custody so that each has both children and an equal number of overnights, using Worksheet B, the support amount is calculated as $686.95.
  • When parents have split custody so that each has one child all the time, using Worksheet C, the support amount is calculated as $591.30.

The North Carolina worksheets can provide estimates of the court’s likely decision regarding the amount of child support. However, the courts may vary from this calculation if circumstances warrant doing so.

Bottom Line

A divorced mother and her daughter walking home after the mother determined how child support is calculated in NC.

How child support is calculated in North Carolina is similar to how it’s calculated in most other states. The state provides three different online calculators for different child custody situations that can help estimate the monthly child support amount. The courts aren’t bound to follow the results of the calculators, and their ruling may vary in some cases. Also, for high-income families, the standard formulas may not be used at all, and the courts may determine the amount for support.

Tips for Managing Child Support

  • A financial advisor can help you work through the financial decisions that you will need to make in the child support process. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Use SmartAsset’s North Carolina Paycheck Calculator to get an estimate of how much your take-home pay will be after taxes are withheld.

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