When parents break up, one of the most devastating changes is the amount of time they get to spend with their children. The courts may like to divide parenting time equally between two parents, and you and your partner may even work out a fair arrangement for quality time with the kids. Nevertheless, one partner will likely have the brunt of the parenting responsibilities.
If your former partner has primary custody, you should understand that it can be overwhelming for one parent to carry the load alone. To balance the responsibilities, the courts may order you to pay child support to ensure your child has the things he or she would likely have enjoyed if you and your partner were together. Child support is not punishment for a non-custodial parent, but you will want to understand how it works so you can fight for a fair arrangement for custody and support.
What is child support?
The courts arrive at the amount you will pay for child support by considering many factors. A judge will likely look at the income of both you and your former partner, your assets and debts, and any other relevant factors. North Carolina, like most states, uses a formula for arriving at an amount, which you will pay monthly, often by automatic withdrawals from your paycheck. Your partner must use the money for items that directly support your child, such as:
- Clothing for the child
- Rent or mortgage on the home where the child lives
- School supplies and other expenses
- Medical expenses for the child
- The cost of extra-curricular activities
Your former partner should never use child support funds for his or her personal expenses, even there is money left over at the end of the month.
Protecting your rights
While custody and support have some common elements, they are separate legal matters, and your former partner may not deny you court-ordered parenting time if you fall behind on your support payments.
That said, it is wise to look into your options for modifying child support amount if you have a sudden financial downturn, such as a job loss or medical emergency. Failing to make your payments can have a long-term negative impact, so speaking with an attorney about your child support issues is a prudent step.