When family law judges in North Carolina issue child support orders, they base the monthly payment on the needs of the child and the incomes of both of the parents. If any of these factors change significantly, either parent can petition the court to modify the child support order. The form that should be submitted to the court can be downloaded from the North Carolina Judicial Branch website.
A significant change in circumstances
Judges are unlikely to modify a child support order unless they are presented with convincing evidence of a significant change in circumstances. Under North Carolina law, a change of circumstances is significant when following state guidelines would result in a monthly payment that is at least 15% higher or lower than the existing payment. Child support modifications are usually granted when parents earn substantially more or less than they did when the order was issued, but judges could also increase or lower the payment if the needs of the child have changed.
Child support modification hearings
Both parents are given an opportunity to be heard during child support modification hearings, but arguments that are not supported by documents like paystubs or bills are unlikely to convince the judge. When examining these documents, judges look carefully for signs that suggest a parent is deliberately sabotaging their financial situation just to lower their child support obligation. In these situations, judges may base child support orders on what they think the parent should be earning rather than what they actually are earning. This is called imputed income.
The needs of the child
Parents should do everything they can to remain civil when discussing child support because disputes that become acrimonious can do great emotional damage to the child or children involved. Tempers flare and emotions run hot in these situations because parents focus too much on their feelings about one another and lose sight of the needs of the child. Parents should understand that their personal views will not influence the outcome because judges follow strict guidelines when they calculate child support, and verifiable documents are more likely to sway them than personal opinions.