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What is a 'modification' in North Carolina child support?

It is the policy of the state of North Carolina that children should be supported by the incomes and talents of their parents. To this end, the state, like the rest of the country, has adopted a uniform method of calculating child support amounts to be paid by people who no longer reside with their children due to divorce or circumstances surrounding a non-marital relationship. Once ordered to pay a child support obligation by a North Carolina court, failure to pay can result in enforcement actions being taken against the non-custodial parent (NCP).

These enforcement actions can include some serious consequences such as suspension of driver's and professional licenses, interception of tax refunds, and even contempt of court and jail time. Because of the severity of penalties, it is important that non-custodial parents who can't afford their child support because of a changed situation take steps to remedy the situation. This might be done by filing for a modification of the child support order.

While North Carolina law allows a family court to modify a child support order at any time on a showing of a substantial change in circumstances, as a practical matter, the easiest way to get a modification is to meet the presumption contained in the state guidelines. To qualify, an NCP would have to show that the last child support amount was entered at least three years prior to the filing of the modification, and that application of the child support guideline to the current situation of the parties would result in at least a 15 percent change compared to the most recent order. If this is the case, there will be a presumption of substantially changed circumstances, and the burden will shift to the custodial parent (CP) to show why the modification should not be granted.

It should be realized that although the above example involves an NCP filing for modification, either party may file. This means that a CP's modification petition that meets the above threshold will also be presumed to be a substantial change. North Carolina residents who have questions about changing their child support amount may wish to consider contacting an experienced family attorney.

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