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.Continue Reading
It is time to review the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines
N.C. Gen. Stat. 50-13.4 requires the North Carolina Conference of Chief District Court Judges to prescribe uniform statewide presumptive guidelines for determining the child support obligations of parents, and to review the guidelines periodically (at least once every four years) to determine whether their application results in appropriate child support orders. The Conference of Chief District Court Judges currently is reviewing the statewide presumptive child support guidelines.Continue Reading
Child Support: Deviating from the Guidelines
Recently, in Kincheloe v. Kincheloe, _ N.C. App. _ (June 15, 2021), the North Carolina Court of Appeals engaged in a lengthy discussion of the law relating to the entry of orders that deviate from the Child Support Guidelines, giving me an excuse to post this short review of that law. To summarize at the beginning of my post rather than at the end, there are two key points to keep in mind when entering child support orders. First, any provision in an order that contradicts or is different than the specific terms or instructions in the Guidelines constitutes a deviation, and second, any deviation must be supported with detailed findings of fact regarding the reasonable needs of the children and the relative ability of the parents to pay support. Continue Reading
Child Support: Extraordinary Expenses in Guideline Cases
The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently affirmed the trial court order in Madar v. Madar, (Dec. 31, 2020), that required both parents to pay costs associated with their child’s mental health treatment in a residential treatment facility in addition to their basic child support obligation pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. The court held that the Child Support Guidelines give the trial court the discretion to determine when parents should be ordered to pay such ‘extraordinary expenses’ as part of their child support obligation. Because ordering the payment of extraordinary expenses does not constitute a deviation from the Child Support Guidelines, a trial court is not required to make findings of fact to support its decision that the expenses are reasonable and necessary or that the parties have the ability to pay.Continue Reading
Prospective Child Support: What is it and how is the amount determined?
In the post “Retroactive Support: What is it and how is the amount determined”, I wrote that the law defines retroactive support as support due for the time before a complaint or motion seeking support is filed, Briggs v. Greer, 136 NC App 294 (2000), and that the amount of retroactive support owed by an obligor can be determined based either on the Child Support Guidelines or on the parent’s share of actual expense incurred on behalf of the child during a period of time in the past. NC Child Support Guidelines, March 1, 2020, p. 2.Continue Reading
No Contempt for the Nonpayment of Money Without Actual Evidence of Ability to Pay
In 2015, I wrote two blog posts summarizing the law relating to the use of contempt to enforce orders to pay support. No Default Judgment in Contempt (May 1, 2015) and Contempt: Establishing Ability to Pay (May 8, 2015). Recent appellate opinions justify revisiting this topic.
Intervention in Custody and Child Support Cases
It is not uncommon for third parties to assert rights or claims against parents litigating child custody and child support. For example, grandparents frequently want the court to grant them visitation rights as part of a custody order resolving a dispute between the child’s mother and father. Similarly, the IV-D child support enforcement agency or a non-parent who has been caring for a child often need to assert rights or claims in child support cases pending between the child’s parents.
Before these people can assert claims or rights in an existing case, they must become parties to the case through the process of intervention.
Child Support Modification: Yes, we’re still supposed to file a motion to modify
In 2016, the court of appeals held that a voluntary support agreement that modified an existing child support order was void because neither party filed a motion to modify as required by GS 50-13.7. Catawba County ex. Rel. Rackley, 784 SE2d 620 (N.C. App. 2016). On September 29, 2017, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and held that the order was not void.
This is important. Among other things, this decision means that if a court accepts a consent order for modification and the requirements of GS 50-13.7 have not been met, the consent order nevertheless is valid and enforceable. However, GS 50-13.7 still requires that a motion be filed and that the court conclude there has been a substantial change in circumstances before modifying a child support or a child custody order can be modified. The failure to comply with the statute is legal error that will support reversal by the court of appeals if there is a direct appeal.
New Regulations Regarding Contempt in IV-D Child Support Cases
Effective January 19, 2017, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) adopted a final rule titled “Flexibility, Efficiency, and Modernization in Child Support Enforcement Programs.” 81 Federal Register 93492 (Dec. 20, 2016). This rule mandates numerous changes to the policies and procedures of state child support enforcement programs, but one change of particular importance to state trial courts involves the use of contempt procedures to enforce child support obligations. According to the Comments to the new rules, the change in the federal regulations regarding the use of contempt is intended to ensure that the “constitutional principles articulated in Turner v. Rogers, 564 U.S. 431 (2011)[addressing the rights of obligors in child support contempt proceedings], are carried out in the child support program, that child support case outcomes are just and comport with due process, and that enforcement proceedings are cost-effective and in the best interest of the child.” 81 FR at 93532.
Child Custody and Support: Jurisdiction to Modify
Unlike other civil judgments, custody and support orders can be modified when there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the order was entered. This rule is codified in North Carolina at GS 50-13.7 and every state in the country has a similar statute.
While this authority is broad and straight forward, there are other statutory provisions that place significant limits on a court’s subject matter jurisdiction to modify a custody or support order – whether the order originally was entered in NC or in some other state or country. These statutory provisions were enacted for the purpose of discouraging parents from running from state to state in the hope of obtaining a more favorable court order.