Pursuant to GS 50-13.4(c1), the North Carolina Conference of Chief District Court Judges recently reviewed the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The Chief Judges considered comments and information from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts in the form of a report from the national Center for Policy Research, recommendations from judges and practicing attorneys across the state, and suggestions from the public during a public hearing held on June 2, 2022. Following this review, the Chief Judges updated the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations to reflect current tax rates, the most recent Consumer Price Index and the current federal poverty level. In addition, the Chief Judges adopted a few changes to the substantive provisions of the Guidelines discussed below.
The revised guidelines were effective January 1, 2023 and apply to child support actions heard on or after that date.
Changes to the Substantive Provisions of the Guidelines (page numbers refer to the North Carolina 2023 Child Support Guidelines)
P. 2 Self-support Reserve
The guidelines include a self-support reserve to help ensure that obligors have sufficient income to maintain a minimum standard of living based on the federal poverty level. For obligors with an adjusted gross income of less than the poverty level, the guidelines require, absent deviation, a child support order of $50. For obligors with an adjusted gross income above the federal poverty level, the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations incorporates a further adjustment to maintain the self-support reserve of the obligor. The 2023 Guidelines incorporates the 2022 federal poverty level for one person, $1,133 per month (was $1,012 per month based on the 2018 poverty level).
P. 2 Determination of Support in Cases Involving High Combined Income
The Chief Judges received several requests to extend the upper limit of the Guidelines, and they agreed to raise the limit from $30,000 per month ($360,000 per year) to $40,000 per month ($480,000 per year). In cases in which the combined monthly income of the parents is above $40,000, the court is required to set support in accordance with the standard set out in GS 50-13.4(c); the amount necessary to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance, having due regard to the estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties, the child care and homemaker contributions of each party, and other facts of the particular case.
P. 3 Potential or Imputed Income
The Chief Judges also decided to remove the provision in the Guidelines which prohibited the imputation of income to a parent who is the primary custodian for a child under the age of three and for whom support is being determined. Income cannot be imputed to a parent unless the court determines that the parent has acted in ‘bad faith’, meaning the parent has deliberately suppressed income to avoid family responsibilities or acted in deliberate disregard of their obligation to provide reasonable support. Lasecki v. Lasecki, 246 NC App 518 (2016). The new guidelines provide that the court must determine whether a parent’s voluntary unemployment or underemployment is based on the parent’s bad faith by considering all the specific circumstances of the parent, including the presence of a young or physically or mentally disabled child in the home of the parent impacting the parent’s ability to work.
P. 4-5 Health Insurance and Health Care Costs
Finally, the new guidelines specify that the term ‘health insurance’ includes vision insurance and that uninsured medical expenses also include amounts spent on vision care, and they specify that the court has the authority to order one or both parents to maintain vision insurance.
The new Guidelines can be found on the website of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts: https://www.nccourts.gov/assets/documents/forms/a162_2.pdf?VersionId=EwvrN0t9U6El.L2g844TRWYlLLP1.aYB
The revised worksheets also can be found on the website of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts:
Worksheet A (primary custody to one parent): https://www.nccourts.gov/assets/documents/forms/cv627_0.pdf?VersionId=fNx4Zjm2TPEHt9xb0qWP0fgg7wIdF6dO
Worksheet B (joint or shared custody): https://www.nccourts.gov/assets/documents/forms/cv628_0.pdf?VersionId=4ggSHUnmTX66s8m2m_FhmrgLE8Ds5SSe
Worksheet C (split custody): https://www.nccourts.gov/assets/documents/forms/cv629_0.pdf?VersionId=UOg.EXWN3hKS1zkmJ1xet__QjdxzEQl9