Millions of Americans have lost their jobs or are working reduced hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, divorced North Carolina parents are requesting changes to their child support obligations.
Job loss does not automatically mean support payments will be modified, and serious consequences can result when parents fail to meet those obligations, even if they were laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19.
Modifying a child support order in North Carolina
Whether the custodial parent seeks an increase in support payments, or the noncustodial parent requests a decrease, they must petition the court. State law and Child Support Services allow a review if:
- At least one dependent child is younger than 18
- Three years or more have passed since the most recent child support order
If reviewable, the state follows strict guidelines over whether a modification is allowed. Using their current income, either parent must demonstrate that a change of at least 15% has occurred since the previous order.
Modifications within the three-year limit
Sometimes, unexpected events, such as losing a job, can lead to case reviews within the three-year limit for modifications. Once again, either parent must petition the court, which in turn must verify that a change in circumstance has happened. These include:
- Changes to the physical custody of the child
- The needs of the child have changed
- A parent’s income has changed
The court again follows strict guidelines, and just because a case is eligible for review does not mean that a modification will be granted.
Coping with child support obligations after a job loss
For noncustodial parents who become unemployed or suffer a drastic pay cut, filing a modification order as soon as possible is essential. In the meantime, you should make a good-faith effort to meet those obligations or pay as much as possible.
An understanding co-parent may agree to temporarily reduce or suspend payments until you find a new job. Making an effort to communicate with the other parent also shows the court that you are making an effort to live up to your obligations.
Child support modifications are complicated in North Carolina. It’s advisable to work with an experienced family law attorney who understands the laws and how courts will always make decisions based upon the child’s best interests.