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A closer look at how North Carolina collects past due child support

child custodyNorth Carolina has long adhered to a collection model known as income withholding in recognition of the degree to which custodial parents rely on child support payments to help make ends meet. Havoc results when noncustodial parents fail to meet their payment obligations.

What happens in North Carolina if you don’t pay child support?

If you fail to pay court ordered child support, you may be held in contempt by the court. This can result in payment of a fine, attorneys fees and costs being awarded to the parent who was forced to file a rule to show cause for contempt, possibly being sentenced to time in jail, and being required to participate in income withholding.

For those unfamiliar with income withholding, it is the process by which employers automatically deduct a specified amount of child support from an employee’s paycheck each pay period. The employee submits a withholding request and the employer remits the money to the state’s Child Support Centralized Collection.

As successful as income withholding has been, and continues to be, the unfortunate reality is that it still doesn’t fully resolve the problem of child support delinquency. The North Carolina Child Support Enforcement Agency does have other avenues available to shore up outstanding support payments across the state.

Tools at the disposal of Child Support Enforcement to help collect arrearages include:

  • Collection from other income sources: Past due child support can be collected from unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, veteran’s disability benefits and Social Security benefits to name only a few.
  • Interception of tax refunds: If more than $50 in past due child support is owed, the CSE can intercept a state tax refund. Similarly, if $500 or more in past due child support ($150 in public assistance cases) is owed, the CSE can intercept a federal tax refund.
  • Driver’s license suspension: If a noncustodial parent is 90 days past due on child support, the CSE can request that the court revoke their driver’s license.
  • Liens: The CSE can put a lien on personal or real property owned by a noncustodial parent.
  • Professional license suspension: If a noncustodial parent is 90 days past due on child support, the CSE can request that the applicable licensing board revoke their professional license (nurses, doctors, plumbers, attorneys, barbers, etc.).

Is there a statute of limitations on child support in North Carolina?

Typically, child support is ordered to be paid until a minor child reaches the age of 18. In North Carolina, an order for child support is a judgment that is good for a term of 10 years from the date the payment is due. If an arrearage exists at the time your child turns 18, the parent who is owed the support may file to renew the judgment for a period of 10 more years.

That means if you’re a parent who owes child support, don’t expect to walk away just because he or she is no longer a minor. You could have a judgment held against you until your child turns 28 years of age. That means being turned down for loans, damaging your credit, and being required to satisfy your obligation before being able to sell property.

Can child support be collected retroactively?

If you never filed an action for child support and now want to pursue collection, you may be in luck. In 2014, caselaw under Loosvelt v. Brown established that a parent could be required to pay certain child-related expenses incurred prior to the filing of a complaint for child support. The court looks at whether a party seeking retroactive child support has provided sufficient evidence of past child-related expenses, and that those expenses were reasonably necessary.

Expenses that could be recoverable include:

  • Nursery expenses after birth
  • Daycare cost
  • Baby food, diapers, formula, and clothing
  • Medical expenses related to the birth

While a custodial parent can make a claim for retroactive child support, there is a three-year statute of limitations for filing suit.

Does child support continue through college in NC?

In North Carolina, child support automatically terminates when your child reaches the age of 18, unless he or she has not yet graduated high school. Should that be the case, a child support obligation will remain in effect until your child:

  • Stops attending school regularly
  • Fails to make satisfactory academic progress
  • Reaches the age of 20 years old, regardless of high school graduation status

Where college is concerned, the parties can add a clause to their separation agreement or agree by consent order that the parent paying child support will continue to do so through college.

What the forgoing serves to illustrate is that those with questions or concerns relating to child support — enforcement or modification — should give serious consideration to speaking with an experienced legal professional with the Charlotte family law attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC. To schedule your consultation in our Charlotte, Boone or Weddington office, call 704-321-0031 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.

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