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What Do My North Carolina Child Support Payments Cover?

Parents who pay child support in North Carolina often want to know, “What does my child support cover?” And, as a follow-up question, many wonder, “What should I do if I think the other parent isn’t using child support properly and my child’s essential needs aren’t being met?”

In this article, we’ll break down the basics of North Carolina child support and explain what is covered, what isn’t, and what you can do if you believe the other parent is misusing funds from child support.

The Basics of Child Support in North Carolina

When a marriage ends in North Carolina, or when unmarried people who have kids together break up, both parents have an equal responsibility to provide financial support for the child or children.

If you’re the custodial parent — the parent who gets most or all of the parenting time, also known as physical custody — the court will assume you’re paying child support “by default.” The day-to-day childcare expenses you pay while you have physical custody of the child, like food, clothing, housing costs, and other expenses, serve as your share of basic child support.

If you’re the noncustodial parent (which means your child lives with your ex most of the time), you probably don’t pay these day-to-day expenses, or you pay much less of them. So, the law says you need to make up the difference and pay your fair share to meet your child’s needs. To meet your financial support obligations, you’ll be required to make child support payments, usually through check, electronic payments, or wage-withholding.

A court will determine the exact child support obligations and the structure of the child support payments in your case. Usually, the noncustodial parent pays child support until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever is later, but not beyond age 20.

Child support is a separate issue from alimony, which is also called spousal support. Child support is paid to support a child, while alimony is financial support paid to a former spouse. Money you pay as alimony won’t affect the amount of child support you owe.

RELATED: When and How Can I Modify Child Support in North Carolina?

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What is Covered by Child Support?

Child support payment amounts are based on the noncustodial parent’s income and parenting time. The payments are intended to cover essential needs such as:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Educational expenses, including school supplies, and fees for extracurricular activities
  • Miscellaneous additional expenses

In general, child support payments should go toward reasonable and essential living expenses that support your child’s standard of living. The theory behind child support is that the child should enjoy the same standard of living as if both parents were living together.

The amount of child support paid should include payments for health insurance for the children and work-related childcare expenses. When the court determines the amount of child support, it will calculate expenses based on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines and factor in any payments that either parent is currently making. For example, if the parent who pays child support is paying for health insurance for the child, those health insurance payments will factor into the child support calculations.

To learn more about the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines and find out exactly how courts in our state set child support, read our previous article on the subject, “What You Need to Know About North Carolina Child Support.”

If I’m Paying Child Support, Do I Have to Pay for Other Things, Too?

Generally, the answer is yes. You have to pay for the child’s expenses during the time the child is with you. However, what exactly you have to pay for in addition to child support and expenses when the child is with you will be unique to your case.

If the amount of child support in your case is based on Worksheet A of the Child Support Guidelines, then the child support you pay is supposed to be all that you have to pay the other parent. If your custody arrangement places the child support on Worksheet B of the Guidelines, then both parties are expected to share expenses for the child in a “true sharing” arrangement. This sharing includes items that would go between houses or benefits the child while at both houses. Examples of these types of items include:

  • School lunch payments
  • Haircuts
  • Shoes that go back and forth
  • School expenses
  • Winter coats

Whether you are on Worksheet A or B, you and the other parent may agree between yourselves on payment for things like extracurricular activities or summer camps.

Also, if you resolved your case by agreement with the other parent, you may have included provisions for sharing expenses for the child. Usually, the parent who has to travel for visitation is responsible for the travel expenses. However, sometimes travel expenses may be included in the child support calculation as an extraordinary expense.

What Can I Do if My Ex Is Misusing Child Support?

The parent who pays child support rarely gets any say in how the other parent spends the money. However, if you have concerns that your ex is spending the money on drugs or alcohol, or if you believe they’re neglecting the needs of the child, there may be grounds to modify the custody arrangement and then recalculate your child support.

RELATED: When and How Can I Modify Child Support in North Carolina?

Contact Myers Law Firm for Help with Child Support in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, our family law attorneys are here to support you and fight for your rights during a divorce and any related legal matters, like child custody and child support. If the other parent owes child support and refuses to pay, we can help you hold them accountable without violating any existing court orders.

If you need help with a child support issue in Charlotte or anywhere in Mecklenburg County, schedule your initial consultation by filling out our quick online contact form or calling our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889).

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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