How to Calculate Child Support Payments in North Carolina

Learn how to calculate child support in North Carolina, when the amount of support may be different than what’s calculated under the state’s guidelines, and how to apply for, collect, and modify child support.

By , Legal Editor

Unlike many states, North Carolina doesn't provide one official online calculator to estimate child support. But the state does provide online worksheets that will compute the amount of support under the North Carolina child support guidelines in different situations.

How to Use the North Carolina Child Support Calculators

Typically, when children primarily live with one parent (the custodial parent), the noncustodial parent pays their share of the overall support obligation to the custodial parent. The guidelines assume that custodial parents meet their share of the support obligation by paying directly for the children's daily expenses. The calculations—and the rules for deciding which parent will pay support—are different when parents have shared or split custody.

So before you can calculate child support in your case, you'll need to know what your physical custody (parenting) arrangements will be. Then you'll choose the appropriate worksheet:

  • Worksheet A when one parent has or will have primary physical custody of all the children (meaning that the kids will live with or spend at least 243 overnights a year with that parent)
  • Worksheet B when the parents share custody of at least one of their children (meaning that the child will spend at least 123 nights a year with that parent, and each parent covers expenses for the child or children during that time), or
  • Worksheet C when primary physical custody of two or more children is split between the parents.

You'll also need to have some basic information on hand, including both parents' income and your expenses for work-related child care, the children's health insurance premiums, and their unreimbursed health care costs over $250 a year.

If you're still negotiating custody, you might try calculating support under different scenarios to see the effect of various parenting arrangements on the amount of child support.

The online worksheets will do the support calculations for you once you fill in your information. But you'll eventually need to download and complete the official worksheet form and submit it to the court. (Links to those forms are at the bottom of the online worksheet calculators.)

You can find details on completing the worksheets (including what counts as income) in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.

When Child Support May Be Different Than the Worksheet Calculation

North Carolina presumes that the amount calculated under the guidelines will meet the child's reasonable needs, given the parents' ability to provide support. But you may argue that a different amount would be better in your case. Whether you and the child's other parent have agreed on a support amount that departs from the guideline or a judge decides for you, the judge will have to find that the amount calculated under the guidelines would be inadequate or excessive, or would otherwise be unjust or inappropriate under your specific circumstances. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50.13.4(c) (2024).)

How to Apply for Child Support in North Carolina

Typically, you'll apply for child support as part of the process of filing for divorce in North Carolina. You'll include your completed child support worksheets along with the other divorce papers.

If you aren't married to your child's other parent, you may get help with requesting support by applying for child support services with the North Carolina Child Support Services program (CSS). If needed, the CSS may also help with establishing the child's legal paternity and locating absent parents.

How to Collect Child Support in North Carolina

In most cases, child support is paid through income withholding. That way, the support payments are deducted from the paying parent's wages (or some other income sources, like unemployment or workers' compensation benefits) and forwarded to the state, which then distributes the money to the recipient parent. When income withholding isn't appropriate (such as when a parent is self-employed), parents can pay online.

If you're having trouble collecting support payments, the North Carolina CSS can also help enforce your support order. Depending on how much the other parent owes, the agency has several ways of enforcing child support, including:

  • reporting the debt to credit bureaus
  • intercepting income tax refunds
  • seizing money from bank accounts
  • placing liens on property (so the delinquent parent can't sell it or borrow money before paying off the debt)
  • suspending the parent's driver's or other licenses, or
  • filing a court action, which could lead to fines or even jail time.

    How to Change the Amount of Child Support

    Either parent may request a modification in the amount of child support. Generally, you'll need to prove that there's been a substantial change in circumstances, such as an involuntary and significant reduction in your income. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50.13.7 (2024).)

    Under North Carolina's child support guidelines, however, the judge will presume that you've met the changed-circumstances requirement if:

    • it's been at least three years since the existing order was issued or last modified, and
    • there's at least a 15% difference between the amount in the existing order and a new guideline calculation based on the parents' current circumstances.

    Parents may ask the North Carolina CSS to review their existing order every three years (or at any time, if they've experienced a substantial change in circumstances). If the review shows that the support amount should be changed, the agency may file a motion in court for a modification.

    You also have the option of filing a modification motion on your own, even if the CSS declines to review your case or to help you with a modification. But without CSS assistance (and unless you and the other parent agree to a modification), you should consider speaking with a family law attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and convince a judge that you're entitled to have your support order modified.

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