Many North Carolina parents have misconceptions about child support. It is important for them to understand how the system works and that they then follow the laws regarding it.

Around 40 percent of children are born to single mothers. When a mother is unwed, the paternity of the child must be established before a court will order the payment of child support. Paternity may be established by the father’s voluntary acknowledgement. If the father does not acknowledge the child, then the mother will need to file a motion for paternity testing.

Another common misconception people have is that only one parent has an obligation to support the child. Both parents are legally bound to do so, and courts use statutory guidelines to calculate the amount each should contribute based on their relative incomes and expenses. Mistakes people sometimes make include not asking that child support be paid through the state’s child support enforcement division. By requesting that payment be made in this way, people are much likelier to be paid, and the state is likely to act much more quickly when a parent falls behind.

A non-custodial parent who has been ordered to pay child support will sometimes become unable to do so due to an unexpected adverse change in their financial circumstances, and they must go to court to seek a modification. Failing to pay child support may lead to very serious consequences, including being held in contempt of court, having wages garnished and potential jail time. Family law attorneys can often assist clients who are in this position in filing a modification motion, but they will also remind their clients that, if obtained, a modification is prospective only and will have no effect on any delinquencies.