When North Carolina parents of minor children decide to end their marriage, the issue of child support will most likely need to be addressed. The state has statutory guidelines that courts will use when determining the amount of support that a noncustodial parent will be ordered to pay. However, parents can choose other methods to establish the amount.

One way to avoid having a judge make a decision is to go through an alternative dispute resolution procedure. A popular method is mediation. In this process, a neutral third party attempts to facilitate an accord between the two estranged spouses. This can be a good choice for couples who, while they have decided that they can no longer live together, are still able to communicate with each other in a less adversarial way. It is far more casual than a courtroom setting, and their children don’t have to be exposed to a battle in court.

Another alternative is negotiation. The parties come to an accord on an amount, and the resulting agreement is reviewed by their respective family law attorneys before it is submitted to the court having jurisdiction over the matter for its approval.

While most noncustodial parents realize that they are obligated to support their children until they reach the age of majority and comply with their agreement, some become unable to do so for a variety of reasons, such as a job loss or an unexpected medical issue. In such a case, they might want to meet with an attorney to see if filing a motion for an order modification might be advisable. They should know, however, that if granted, the modification will apply prospectively only and will have no effect on any amounts that are past due.