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North Carolina Child Support Guidelines

Last updated 1/17/2020

Child support is a parent’s court-ordered payment to help with the costs of raising a child. In North Carolina, child support obligations normally last until the child turns 18 years old, but can continue up until he or she turns 20 if the child is still in high school.

How to Begin the Child Support Process in North Carolina

There are several ways a parent can receive child support:

  • Parents can make an agreement and ask a judge to approve a Voluntary Support Agreement (VSA), a civil court action brought by the custodial parent, an organization, or the guardian of a dependent child 
  • Parents can bring a criminal abandonment and non-support court case
  • Parents can include child support in a divorce order

Family Court

Many parents obtain child support through a civil court action. Either parent can begin the application process for child support by contacting Child Support Services (CSS). A parent can apply for child support online or in person at a local office. The CSS office can help you locate the noncustodial parent, establish paternity for children born outside of marriage, establish support obligations, collect and distribute support, and enforce support obligations.

Calculating Child Support in North Carolina

The court determines child support amounts using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. A judge will calculate child support using a somewhat complicated formula. The most significant factors are each parent's income, daycare expenses, the cost of medical insurance, and the living arrangements of the children.

The following table highlights the main provisions of North Carolina's child support laws. See also Child Custody, Child Support Modifications, and Child Support Enforcement.

Code Section NCGS Chapter 50 et. seq.
Who is Responsible? Both Parents
How Is Support Calculated? See our page on North Carolina Child Support Guidelines

Guidelines are based upon the monthly income of both parents. Even if the parents are not working, the court may order them to pay child support. In some cases, both parents may be ordered to pay support for a child not in their care. 

What is Included in a Support Order? Monetary support (food, clothing, and shelter), health insurance, basic education expenses. Also might include child care expenses, extraordinary medical expenses, visitation travel costs, and extracurricular activities.
How Long Must a Parent Pay Child Support? Until the child reaches the age of 18 or 20 if he or she has not graduated high school. Other reasons include death of the child, or emancipation before turning 18.
Local Child Support Offices North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Child Support Services (CSS): 1-800-992-9457, Local Directory

Because North Carolina's child support laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced North Carolina family attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

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