Although families are certainly feeling the impact of a recent downward turn in the economy, nationwide trends indicate that those parents who are paying child support are being hit the hardest. In most cases in North Carolina, child support is calculated using a formula. One of the most important variables in the calculation is the income of each of the parents. Because the amount of support a non-custodial parent is required to pay is usually based on his or her income, a nationwide 10% unemployment rate has made it a near impossibility for many supporting parents to meet their children’s needs.
In North Carolina, child support orders are never final. Child custody and child support orders can always be modified in the case of a substantial change in circumstances affecting the wellbeing of the child – this can include changes in the paying parent’s financial situation. Often, existing child support orders can be modified when a substantial change in circumstances has occurred that renders the non-custodial parent unable to continue to pay the original amount owed. If a parent voluntarily modifies his or her earning capacity, such as in the case of taking a lower paying job, courts are sometimes hesitant to modify child support obligations. However, in the case of a parent who finds his or herself suddenly unemployed and are seeking new employment in good faith, child support obligations can often be modified.