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My Child Needs More Financial Support. What Can I Do?

My Child Needs More Financial Support. What Can I Do? You may be a divorcee that shares custody of your children with your spouse. Even though the divorce has been difficult at times, you and your ex-spouse have done a great job putting the children’s needs first, and both of you have borne the financial burdens with equanimity and equality. However, with the current pandemic, you’re beginning to notice that the amount in the child support order is not covering all of your children’s needs.

Maybe your children are returning to school after attending virtual learning for almost a year, and you want to modify your child support order to make up for the additional expenses. As soon as you mention the thought of modifying the child support order to your ex-spouse, he or she becomes combative and refuse to meet you halfway. What can you do?

When can you modify a child support order in North Carolina?

One of the questions you may find yourself asking is whether you can modify the child support order. The answer is, it depends. In order for a judge to approve your request for a modification you must prove a “substantial and material change in circumstances.” Per the North Carolina Judiciary, “A difference of 15% or more of the child support paid under an existing order and the amount of child support resulting from the application of the guidelines based on the parents’ current income and circumstances is presumed to be a substantial change in circumstance.”

Reasons to modify a child support order

Some of the common reasons why parents request a modification for their child support orders are a change in the child’s (or a parent’s) health needs, an increase in a parent’s salary, or a parent’s involuntary job loss.

Can parents modify their child support orders without getting the courts involved?

No, not legally. You need to follow the guidelines and submit your request for modification to the court. However, if you and your ex-spouse have an amicable relationship, and the modification is related to “good” news,” such as one of you getting a new job that pays significantly more, or a child’s health care needs changing for the better, it is not a bad idea to sit down and hash out the changes together, so you are on the same page when it comes to what is best for your child. If you or your ex-spouse was already paying more support above what the guidelines require, you may wish to do this in a formal mediation session, but that is up to you.

In the end, you cannot mediate child support, and you cannot have a “handshake” agreement. You must follow the rules set forth by North Carolina.

Child support and “extraordinary” medical costs in North Carolina

If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that medical costs are a leading cause of friction between co-parents. Under the law, child support should include money for healthcare for your child, typically in the form of health insurance premiums. But if your child develops a serious illness, or is injured in a significant way, you could incur significant costs for medications, surgeries, and deductibles. These monies are not usually a part of a child support order, which is why they are deemed “extraordinary” medical expenses.

That does not mean, however, that you must bear the burden alone. Even if extraordinary medical costs are not directly outlined in your agreement, both parents should pay for these associated bills. If you are the primary residential parent, or the one who supplies the health insurance, we will submit a request for payment to your ex-spouse within 30 days. If he or she fails to pay, we can file through the court.

What happens if the other parent refuses to cooperate?

A child support order is a legally binding order that both parents are expected to abide by, regardless of the circumstances. A parent who refused to pay support can be subject to a number of penalties, including:

  • Being held in contempt of court
  • Jail time
  • Wage garnishment
  • Loss or suspension of a license (driver, hunting, fishing, business, and/or professional)
  • Asset/ property seizure
  • Tax refund seizure
  • Additional fines

A parent who refuses to pay child support can be charged criminally, too. This is not the likely outcome for missing a payment or two, but it is possible.

How can I get a child support order enforced?

If your goal is not to send your ex to jail, but simply to enforce the existing support order, we can file a Motion for Order to Show Cause. This order will ask the court to hold your ex in contempt, but it is often the push a parent needs to realize he or she needs to uphold his or her duty to the children.

Whether you are filing the complaint or have been served with one, need additional support for your child’s healthcare or are struggling to pay your child support, you should have an attorney represent you. Epperson Law Group has worked with countless parents over the years in claims involving child support orders, and we know from experience that it is better for you to have a lawyer on your side.

The family law attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC can help you navigate through the child support enforcement process, whether you are seeking child support owed to you or if you are in arrears on child support. Our legal team is dedicated to protecting your rights and working in the best interests of your child. To reserve a consultation with one of our lawyers in Charlotte, Weddington, Concord, and Boone, please call 704-321-0031 or fill out our contact form.