How does the court decide what amount the child support should be?
To decide the amount of child support, the judge will look at child support guidelines, which are a mathematical formula that is designed to give each child a fair amount of support based on his/her parents’ ability to provide for the needs of the child. Under the guidelines, the amount that is ordered should:
- meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education and maintenance;
- consider the estates (the property owned by the parents), earnings, and the ability of the parents to pay;
- consider the standard of living that the child and the parties are used to;
- consider the child care and homemaker responsibilities of each party; and
- account for other relevant facts of the particular case.*
However, if either party requests it, the judge can hold a hearing and listen to evidence presented by both parties before deciding the amount of child support that is owed. At the hearing, the judge must consider these three questions when deciding whether or not to order an amount of support outside of the guidelines:
- Would applying the guidelines not meet the reasonable needs of the child? (be too little money)
- Would applying the guidelines exceed the reasonable needs of the child? (be too much money)
- Would applying the guidelines otherwise be unfair or inappropriate?
If the judge answers “yes” to any of these questions, then the judge can order a different amount of support than the guideline calls for, but the judge has to explain why s/he ordered a different amount.*
* NCGS § 50-13.4(C)