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Cary Child Support Modification

In North Carolina, like any place, ensuring the well-being of children following a divorce or separation involves carefully considering their financial needs. Child support orders are established with the “best interests of the children” in mind, aiming to provide them with stability and support. However, as life’s circumstances change, support payments might need to be adjusted.

The Foundation of Child Support Calculations

In North Carolina, child support is calculated based on a formula that considers three primary factors.

  • The Gross Monthly Income of Both Parents: Understanding that both parents bear financial responsibility for their children, their combined income forms the basis for determining support amounts.
  • The Custody Schedule: The time each parent spends with the child influences the financial requirements, reflecting the cost of day-to-day care.
  • The Number of Children: The more children involved, the greater the financial commitment required to meet their needs.

This formula aims to ensure that support orders are fair, balanced, and, most importantly, focused on the children’s needs.

Adhering to the ”Best Interests of the Child’ Standard

North Carolina courts prioritize the “best interests of the child” in all child support and custody decisions. This principle guides the court in ensuring that children receive adequate support from both parents throughout their childhood. When the financial circumstances of a parent change significantly, it may warrant modifying the existing child support order to maintain this standard of care.

Why Modify Child Support?

Life is unpredictable. A parent’s financial situation can change due to job loss, health issues, or unexpected expenses, affecting their ability to pay a set amount of child support. Similarly, the needs of a child may evolve over time, requiring more support than initially anticipated. In North Carolina, either parent has the right to request a modification to the child support order to reflect these significant life changes.

The Child Support Modification Legal Process Explained

Modifying a child support order involves a straightforward, two-step legal process:

  1. Proving a Significant Change: The first step is to demonstrate to the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the original order was made.
  2. Re-evaluating Support: If the court acknowledges the change, it will recalculate the child support amount based on current information, adhering to state guidelines, unless a deviation from the guidelines has been requested and would be more appropriate.

Common Reasons for Modification

As we mentioned above, to modify custody, you must prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Some situations that can meet this requirement include:

  • Income Changes: Significant increases or decreases in a parent’s income.
  • Financial Hardship: Unexpected financial challenges, like medical expenses.
  • Changes in Child’s Needs: Decreases in costs due to work-related childcare no longer being necessary, increases in costs due to schooling or medical needs, or changes like aging out of child support requirements.
  • Custody Adjustments: Changes in the child’s living arrangements that impact the support needed.

What about the Three-Year Rule? 

North Carolina law states that child support is reviewable if at least one child involved is under 18 years old and more than three years have passed since the most recent child support order or modification. This does not mean that child support is automatically modified every three years.

What this three-year rule really means is if your existing order is at least three years old, and the application of the guidelines to your current situation would result in a difference of 15% or more from your current payment amount, it is considered an automatic substantial change of circumstances and child support can be modified. The parent seeking modification must request this and prove that support would increase or decrease by 15% or more based on the current facts.

If you can prove a different substantial change in circumstances, like the ones we mentioned above, you do not need to wait three years, but you still must file a motion requesting an increase or decrease.

Calculating New Support Amounts

When considering a modification, the court may calculate a new amount of child support based on the North Carolina guidelines or opt for a deviation if the situation calls for it. You can use the North Carolina Child Support Calculator to estimate potential changes to your child support payments.

Note, the new amount MUST be in a court order to modify a court order, meaning that a handshake, a text, an email, a signed napkin isn’t enough to have a valid and enforceable child support modification

Navigating the Modification Process

Though it might seem straightforward to file a modification request, the reality is often more complex. Disagreements between parents, the need for substantial evidence, and navigating the legal system can make the process daunting. We’ve seen it become a long, drawn-out battle, sometimes lasting longer than the initial child support case. Having an attorney on your side makes all the difference in making sure your child support payments match your current financial needs.

A reasonable attorney will help gather necessary documentation, argue for a fair modification based on current circumstances, and ensure compliance with North Carolina’s legal standards.

And this is important: If you’re facing changes that affect child support, don’t delay. Child support can be modified from the date you file your motion, but not retroactively before that date. For personalized guidance and support, reach out to Triangle Smart Divorce. Let us help you ensure your child’s financial needs are met, reflecting your current circumstances.

Contact Triangle Smart Divorce today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist you in securing a fair and appropriate child support arrangement.

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