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Modifying Child Support in North Carolina

An award of child support is intended to balance the financial contribution of the custodial and non-custodial parents, but biological parentage is not required to receive child support. North Carolina child support law allows any person providing care for a minor child who is living in their home to receive support[1]. Parents must provide support for their children unless their rights have been terminated, and non-parents are only responsible for paying child support in limited circumstances.

If a child support order already exists, you can request that it be changed. However, you must be prepared to show that your modification request is justified.

How to Modify Child Support

When there is an existing order in place, a Motion and Notice of Hearing for Modification of Child Support Order can be filed. This motion may be filed when there has been a substantial change in circumstances or if it has been at least three years since the current order was entered[2].

North Carolina child support laws recognize that financial needs change over time, even in the absence of a drastic change in circumstance. Thus, the three-year guideline ensures that a regular review of support obligations is possible. However, sometimes a modification is needed before that timeframe is over.

What is a Substantial Change in Circumstance?

The term substantial change is subjective and leaves some room for argument. However, the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines state that a substantial change in circumstance has occurred if a difference of at least 15% exists between the amount ordered and the amount based on the guidelines[3]. Despite the potential subjectivity, a party that files a motion for modification does not need to show a change of circumstances by any other means than satisfying the 15% rule in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines[4].

This was determined in a recent case in Burke County, Barus v. Coffey[5]. In this case, the father filed a motion for support modification, which the mother sought to have dismissed based on a failure to state a claim for relief. The father’s motion was dismissed, at which point he appealed.

The Court of Appeals ultimately determined that the father’s claim for relief was stated in his motion. State trial courts should presume that a substantial change has occurred if the three-year timeframe or 15% rule in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines have been met[6]. The appeals court ruled that the father in Barus v. Coffey should not have had his motion dismissed, and the case was remanded to the trial court for determination.

Avoiding timely and stressful legal battles this like is not always possible, but working with a North Carolina family law attorney can improve your odds. The legal familiarity and extensive experience you’re looking for in a family law attorney can be found at Woodruff Family Law Group. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and put our decades of experience to work for you.

[1] North Carolina Judicial Branch. Child Support.

[2] North Carolina Judicial Branch. Child Support.

[3] NCDHHS. North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.

[4] Barus v. Coffey, 281 N.C. App. 250, 868 S.E.2d 655.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.