Published on:

Enforcing Complex Child Support Arrangements

When parents are divorced or no longer together, child support is a way for the non-custodial parent to contribute to the reasonable needs of the child. It may seem relatively straightforward, and in many cases it is. However, child support can become a complex issue because so many factors are used to determine the arrangements.

Factors in Child Support Determinations

Child support is calculated using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, which consider the income of both parents, childcare expenses, healthcare costs, and other extraordinary expenses such as education and transportation. The child custody and visitation schedules are also factors in calculating the amount of child support for which a parent is responsible. Judges can deviate from the guidelines if it is determined that such deviation is necessary to meet the child’s reasonable needs or if applying the guidelines would be unjust.[1]

In cases involving high net-worth parents, the guidelines cannot be used to determine the supporting parent’s child support obligation. The reasonable needs of the child will be the guiding factors in these cases, including the accustomed standard of living in relation to education, conditions, and maintenance.

When child support is complicated, you’ll need a Greensboro divorce lawyer with experience in complex cases to ensure you follow proper procedure and comply with court orders.

Non-Compliance with Support Orders

It is possible to amend or modify child support orders if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, but it is important that a motion is filed with the court to allow a judge to rule on the proposed amendment rather than the supporting parent unilaterally deciding to change their support amount. Child support orders are not optional, and supporting parents who refuse to comply with the terms could face harsh consequences, including being held in civil contempt.[2]

Bossian v. Bossian

In the case of Bossian v. Bossian,[3] the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling that found Father in contempt, ordering his arrest for non-compliance with the child support order. This case had a complex history that stretched over seven years:

  • A permanent order for custody and support was entered in 2015, granting Mother primary physical custody as Father lived out of state.
  • Father was ordered to pay Mother $1,225.87 in monthly child support.
  • In 2020, Mother filed a Motion for Order to Show Cause and a Motion for Contempt because Father had not paid child support or unreimbursed medical expenses.
  • An Order to Appear and Show Cause was entered against Father, with a hearing scheduled for August 2020.
  • Father filed a Motion to Dismiss and a Motion to Continue, and the Motion to Continue was denied via WebEx call on August 25, 2020.
  • The case was set for a hearing that same afternoon, and Father was expected to be physically present.
  • Father attended the hearing via WebEx, and the judge admonished Father but elected not to enter an Order for Arrest.

In this hearing, Father argued that because one of the parties’ children moved to Rhode Island to live with him for two years, the child support order had been modified. The court had no records suggesting that any modification had officially occurred, so Father was found in contempt for willfully violating the court order. The court acknowledged that the parties agreed to the change in living arrangements for one of their children, so a lower purge amount was set than what was actually owed in arrears.

The Bossian case also involved argument over notice of the show cause hearing and Father avoiding service. Ultimately, the trial court decided that Father needed to pay $33,198.52 in order to purge himself of contempt and avoid arrest.

Clerical errors were noted in a Rule 60 Motion filed by Mother, and Father subsequently filed a Rule 59 Motion for Relief[4] requesting a new trial be granted. At the hearing for these motions, the judge granted Mother’s motion, denied Father’s motion, and issued an Order for Civil Contempt to arrest Father for his continued refusal to pay ordered support. Father appealed but was ultimately unsuccessful, as the Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

[1] NC Judicial Branch. Child Support.

[2] NC General Statute § 5A-21. Civil Contempt.

[3] Bossian v. Bossian, 2022-NCCOA-443.

[4] NC Rule of Civil Procedure. Rule 59.,_Rule_59.html