In accordance with the federal Child Support Enforcement Act, each state has developed specific guidelines to calculate a range of child support to be paid, based on the parents’ respective incomes and expenses. Each state’s guidelines vary considerably, meaning that in virtually identical situations, the child support ordered in one state may be far more or less than that ordered in another state. Judges in some states are allowed a considerable amount of leeway in setting the actual amount, while other states have very strict guidelines that leave judges with very little leeway.
Regardless of the judge’s latitude, there are statewide guidelines put in place that specify factors that must be considered in determining who pays how much child support. These factors include:
When one parent does not work
When income is received on an irregular, non-recurring, or one-time basis, the court may average or prorate the income over a specified period of time or require an obligor to pay as child support a percentage of his or her non-recurring income that is equivalent to the percentage of his or her recurring income paid for child support.
Potential or Imputed Income: If the court finds that a parent’s voluntary unemployment or underemployment is the result of the parent’s bad faith or deliberate suppression of income, child support may be calculated based on the parent’s potential income. If a parent has no recent work history or vocational training, potential income should not be less than the minimum hourly wage for a forty hour work week.
Third party consideration
Guidelines do not apply to child support orders against stepparents or other persons or agencies who are secondarily liable for child support. They may, however, be a small factor to consider in offsetting some expenses that a parent would have otherwise been responsible for.
Maxed out guidelines
There are cases in which the parents’ combined adjusted gross income is more than 300,000 a year. When income exceeds this threshold, the normal child support schedule is maxed out. Inn cases that involve very high incomes, the courts will need to set the award on their own. When setting this award, the court must ensure that the amount of the award meets the reasonable needs of the child.
Contempt of court refers to actions that challenge a court’s authority, cast disrespect on a court, or impede the ability of the court to perform its function. Contempt takes two forms: civil contempt and criminal contempt.
The most common form of civil contempt happens when someone fails to adhere to an order from the court, resulting in a violation of the rights of a private party. Usually, the injured party is the one to file an action for civil contempt. For example, failing to pay court ordered child support may lead to punishment for civil contempt. The injured party in this scenario would be the parent who has not yet received the court ordered child support payments.
Civil contempt sanctions are commonly used to coerce such a person into complying with a court order the person has violated. Unlike criminal contempt, which aims to punish the act, civil contempt has one of two goals. The first goal of civil contempt is to reinstate the rights of the party who was wronged by the failure to fulfill the court’s order. The second is to simply move an underlying proceeding along. When either of these goals is met, civil contempt sanctions typically end.
Criminal contempt charges, on the other hand, are punitive. This means that they serve to deter future acts of contempt by punishing the wrongdoer. An individual that has been incarcerated for criminal contempt cannot secure their own release by deciding to comply with the court; however, they are given the same constitutional rights guaranteed to criminal defendants.
Criminal contempt charges become separate charges from the underlying proceeding. Unlike civil contempt sanctions, criminal contempt charges have the potential to continue after the underlying case has been resolved. Criminal contempt charges may occur directly or indirectly. In order for one to occur directly, the act must take place in the presence of the court. In order for one to occur indirectly, the act must take place outside the presence of the court.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals addressed the issue of retroactive child support in the case of Loosvelt v. Brown, on July 15, 2014. Mr. Loosvelt, brought a lawsuit against Ms. Brown for child custody and to establish child support obligation. Ms. Brown then brought counterclaims including one for retroactive child support. The trial court awarded over $7,000 per month in child support along with around $40,000 in retroactive child support including in excess of $5,000 in pre-birth nursery expenses and maternity clothes.
The Court of Appeals addressed the issue retroactive child support and clarified the law on the expenses that can be recovered before a child’s birth. The court held that "as the legal obligation arises when the child is born, expenses incurred prior to the child's birth cannot be considered as retroactive child support. The only exception to this is in the North Carolina General Statute §49-15 which allows for "medical expenses incident to the pregnancy and birth of the child."
Furthermore, a parent may seek retroactive child support for child support prior to filing the complaint. The Statute of Limitations does limit (NCGS § 1-52(2)) limits a parent to know no more than three years of retroactive support. The parent seeking retroactive child support must present evidence of past expenditures made on behalf of the child that were reasonably necessary.
If you are filing an action for child support, be sure to talk with an attorney about making a claim of retroactive child support.