In our last segment we discussed the fact that there are three different child support worksheets used in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines – Worksheet A, Worksheet B and Worksheet C. The different worksheets are used for different custodial arrangements:

Worksheet A – one parent has primary physical custody of the minor child(ren);

Worksheet B –  both parents share joint physical custody; and

Worksheet C – the least often used where one child resides with one parent and another child(ren) resides(s) with the other (split custody)

Since Worksheets A and B are the most commonly used worksheets for child support calculations, this segment will discuss some main point associated with these two worksheets. The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines take into account the number of overnights a person will exercise with the minor child(ren). A person exercising less than 123 overnights will be subject to Worksheet A.  However, exercising a joint custodial arrangement does not fully absolve a parent of their support obligation. Even a parent exercising 123 or more overnights may be subject to a child support obligation, calculated under Worksheet B.

The N.C. Guidelines mandate that each worksheet be calculated based on both parents’ gross monthly incomes. Under the N.C. Guidelines, gross income is “income is income before deductions for federal or state income taxes, Social Security or Medicare taxes, health insurance premiums, retirement contributions, or other amounts withheld from income” (See North Carolina Child Support Guidelines for full definition, exclusions and further information). Another similarity with the worksheets is that a parent who covers the minor child(ren) on medical insurance, provides for work-related child care expenses and/or extraordinary expenses will be given “credit” on the worksheet calculation for those contributions, which will offset some of their support obligation, regardless the worksheet.

The major difference between Worksheet A and Worksheet B is that the support obligation associated with Worksheet B is less than the support obligation required under Worksheet A given the increased expense in an equal sharing of custodial time. Sometimes, the support obligation under Worksheet B can be considerably less than Worksheet A. This contemplates the increased expenses associated more equal placement with the child(ren). However, the decreased amount of support in Worksheet B does not give a parent license to only pay the expenses associated with the child(ren) when they reside with that parent. In fact, the Worksheet B Instructions specifically designate that there must be a “true sharing of expenses” in addition to the requisite number of overnights. In the case of Cabbs v. Cabbs, 222 N.C. App. 316 (2012) (unpublished), the North Carolina Court of Appeals found that the Trial Court’s finding that that even though Mr. Cabbs exercised 130 to 140 overnights per year with his minor children, and provided food, utilities, and some clothing during his custodial time, that the arrangement did not include a true sharing of expenses and thus, it was proper for the Trial Court to Order the Defendant, Mr. Cabbs, to pay Child Support based on the increased amount of Worksheet A (see Generally Cabbs, 222 N. C. App. 316 (2012) (unpublished)).

It is also important to note, that once a person in under a support obligation, items purchased or money given outside of the specific support amount are considered gifts and not child support. For example, if a person is under a Worksheet A obligation to pay $600 per month in support, they cannot purchase $300 in clothing and pay $300 to the custodial parent. In our example, the only properly paid child support is the $300 and the $300 clothing purchase is a gift. However, taking our same example, but applying it to Worksheet B, although the $600 child support amount is still required in full and on-time, the additional $300 clothing purchase is a prime example of a purchase that could be considered a  “true sharing of expenses” for which that parent is responsible.

Child Support cases can be extremely complex, and this first child support blog has given information that is intended to be very basic and general in nature and not to be relied upon as all situations are unique. The family law attorneys at Vernon Law Firm are happy to set up a consultation to discuss specific details and circumstances surrounding child support and all family law matters.