The law in North Carolina on Child Support presumes that parents have a financial responsibility towards their children. This such an important issue to the states and the federal government, that child support agencies have been established, including in North Carolina, that seek to establish parental child support obligations and enforce those obligations once established.
Into the 1980’s, child support was calculated in every county in North Carolina… Wake County, Johnston County, Durham County… and so on, on a case-by-case basis. In other words, if the parents could not work out an agreed upon level of child support, a judge would hear testimony and take evidence about the incomes of the parents and the needs of the children and enter an order.
Some would say the case-by-case analysis by the courts created very different results case-to-case, judge-to-judge, and county-to-county. No doubt, it did.
Also, once these orders were entered, enforcement became increasingly difficult in our increasingly mobile country. Imagine the prohibitive expense to a single parent with a court order for child support who might be chasing payment from state to state as the ex-spouse moved between jobs.
The federal government got involved and essentially, with the power of its federal purse strings, compelled the states to establish support establishment and enforcement mechanisms. Now, in Wake County for example, we have a child support enforcement agency in downtown Raleigh. Even though there have been threats of cuts to these programs in the past, they are going strong.
In addition to establishment and enforcement agencies, there was a push to streamline the calculation of child support…. enter the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.
In North Carolina, the Conference of Chief District Court Judges was charged with promulgating guidelines. Like many other states, the Conference seized upon an income shares model, assessed the numbers, and came up with a formulae to calculate child support based on a grid of presumptive needs based on income levels and the number of children and the adjustments based on such factors as the difference in income between the parents, the cost of child care and health insurance. Other adjustment factors were added in such as extraordinary expenses and to cap it off judges were given flexibility to vary from the guideline-suggested child support if fairness so dictated.
So here we are. Since the late 1980’s we have gone through multiple updates on the guidelines as well as a few statutory revisions and many cases interpreting the law. Additionally, there are online calculators for child support.