Child Support

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Child Support
Statutes:Child Support Guidelines
Child Support Worksheets
DescriptionChild support is payments intended to support the child.
TakeawayChild support is generally calculated using the worksheet that corresponds to the custody arrangement

Child Support is money one spouse pays the other for child-related expenses. It's intended to provide the same financial support each spouse would have provided the child(ren) if the parents had remained married. Generally, child support is calculated using Worksheet A (for primary custody) or Worksheet B (for shared custody).

Which Worksheet to Use

Worksheet A for primary custody is used if the child(ren) spend the night at one parent's house at least 2/3rds of the time. Worksheet B is used for anything closer to 50/50 shared custody. The court uses the worksheet that corresponds to whatever custody actually took place, regardless of whether both parents agreed to it. However, there are several exceptions where the child support worksheets may not be used at all:[1]

  • If the person being sued for child support is not the direct, biological parent
  • If a binding court order or separation agreement is in place, then more complex rules apply
  • If special circumstances warrant a deviation from the child support guidelines, such as if the child has a disability that results in additional costs.
  • For child support owed prior to the filing of the lawsuit (called retroactive child support), the judge is allowed to only compensate a parent upon proof of actual expenses, rather than use the guidelines
  • If a spouse earns less than $1,000 per-month or more than $30,000 per-month

How to Complete the Worksheet

The child support worksheets look similar to tax forms. They'll ask you to list your pre-tax income, child-related expenses, and so on. Then subtract or multiply one line from another. Each worksheet will ask you to lookup a "Basic Child Support Obligation" in form AOC-A-162. This is a spreadsheet where you look-up the total combined income of both spouses to determine the base amount of total money the spouses should be spending on the child(ren), according to the form. The steps in the child support worksheet after that determine which spouse should pay how much of that.

For the section on child-related expenses, these should only include the specific expenses listed, such as health insurance and daycare. Other expenses, like food and shelter, is what the child support itself is for. However, the "extraordinary expenses" line has been interpreted to mean something more along the lines of unusual expenses unique to the child(ren).

Contracts vs Orders

A court order regarding child support can be obtained from a judge either by the consent of the parents, or after a hearing and a verdict. If one spouse does not make the court-ordered child support payments, the other spouse can pursue contempt of court or (more commonly) wage garnishment. However, a court order on child support can be modified by the court if the spouse asking for a modification can prove there has been a "substantial change in circumstances".

A separation agreement is a contract rather than a court order. A separation agreement cannot be changed based on a "substantial change in circumstances" but the court can decide to ignore the terms of the agreement if it is unreasonable such that it does not adequately provide for the child(ren). The idea here is that the spouses made an agreement, but the court can intervene if necessary for the child(ren).

If you want to sign a separation agreement, but have it treated like a court order in terms of it being enforceable (substantial change in circumstances, rather than unreasonable), this process is called "incorporation." In incorporation, the separation agreement is attached to a court order saying the court is ordering those terms.

Oral agreements regarding child support are not enforceable.

Attorney Fees

In a child support lawsuit, the judge can decide to force one spouse to pay the other spouse's legal fees, if the parent making a child support claim is unable to afford an attorney on their own.[2]

Contact an Attorney

This wiki is provided by North Carolina divorce lawyer David King and his firm King @ Law. You can learn more about King @ Law at If you are looking to hire an attorney, have questions, or would like to contribute to this wiki, you can contact attorney King using any of the following methods:


  1. Child Support Worksheet. Read the Applicability and Deviation section.
  2. N.C.G.S. 50-13.6. "the court may in its discretion order payment of reasonable attorney's fees"