child support laws in nc

The legislature of North Carolina expects both parents to contribute to the upbringing and needs of their children.


For The Parent Who Does Not Have Primary Physical Custody

A parent who does not have primary physical custody (the non-custodial parent) will generally be ordered to provide child support by way of periodic payments to the parent with primary physical custody (the custodial spouse). The court must follow the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines unless there are factors requiring deviation from the guidelines. The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines are applicable in cases where the combined income of the parties is less than $360,000.00 per year. If there are reasons for deviation such as special needs of a child or high income in the family, then the determination is based, in part, on a financial statement prepared by the custodial spouse. These financial statements will be filed with the court and the court will then review the financial statements itemizing the incomes and expenses of each spouse.

The non-custodial spouse’s child support obligation continues until the child reaches the age of 18 or finishes high school (whichever occurs last); however, if the child is otherwise emancipated, payment shall terminate at that time. A party by agreement may obligate himself or herself to make such payments beyond these time limits, but North Carolina does not require that a parent support their child during the period when the child attends college.

Both child custody and child support are issues that can be raised at any time until the child reaches 18. Either spouse can petition the court to change its prior order of custody or support based on a showing by the moving party that circumstances have substantially and materially changed.



Use our interactive Child Support Calculator to determine your child support obligations according to the NC Child Support Guidelines.

What can CSS do when an NCP does not pay his/her child support?

Once a child support obligation is determined and a court order established, CSS is responsible for enforcing the order. Appropriate enforcement actions are mandatory when the noncustodial parent (NCP) is not complying with the court order.

Some remedies used to enforce a child support order are:

  • Court action resulting in jail time.
  • Interception of tax refunds (See Tax Intercept FAQs).
  • Consumer credit reporting – An NCP’s obligation is reported to consumer credit bureaus that track credit records. Having a child support arrearage debt on a credit record could prevent an NCP from getting a loan or a new credit card.
  • Passport denial or revocation – NCPs with cases that have arrearages of more than $2,500 are submitted to the U.S. Secretary of State. The U.S. Secretary of State refuses to issue a passport to these NCPs and could revoke, restrict or limit a passport that was previously issued.
  • Liens – A lien is a hold placed on property to ensure that child support payments are made. If NCPs have arrearages equal to three months of their child support obligation or $3,000 (whichever is less), CSS can petition the court to place a lien on the NCP’s property. The NCP can either pay his or her arrearages to have the lien removed, or the property can be sold to satisfy part or all of the debt.
  • Driver’s, professional/occupational, or wildlife license revocation – If an NCP is 90 days behind in child support payments, a judge can order revocation of his or her driver’s license. CSS also can refer that NCP’s name to the appropriate licensing board to revoke a professional or occupational license. These licenses cannot be reissued until either the entire debt is paid or a satisfactory payment plan is established. Examples of professional or occupational licenses include: doctor, lawyer, realtor, nurse, teacher, plumber, barber, etc.
  • Levying financial institution (bank) accounts – If NCPs have arrearages equal to six months of their child support obligation or $1,000 (whichever is less), CSS can request that a levy be placed on the NCP’s financial institution accounts.