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The basics of child support in North Carolina

While men generally pay child support more often than women do, any noncustodial parent in North Carolina can be responsible for making payments to the parent who has custody regardless of gender. There are several additional factors taken into consideration when determining how much child support is awarded and which parent will receive it. First of all, a relationship to the child must be established. With mothers, this is typically done with a record of the child's birth.

Establishing paternity is sometimes a separate family law matter. If a couple was married when the child was born, the husband is usually assumed to be the father. When parents are not married, an Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit may be used to establish the identity of the father. This affidavit can be completed at the hospital by both parents, a Vital Statistics Registrar, or a Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA).

If there are legal challenges involving paternity, the CSEA may request a genetic (DNA) test. Results are considered conclusive if there is a 99 percent probability of fatherhood. In some instances, the court orders a DNA test if the parties refuse to be tested. It's also possible for a child's last name to be legally changed based on the results. Child support may be awarded to a biological parent, legal guardian or the adult with whom the child lives. The amount of support is determined by established state guidelines along with income verification documents that include recent tax returns from both parents.

A family law attorney can provide assistance with issues related to custody, securing a child support order and determining paternity. Should the parent owing support fail to pay or stop paying the full amount, a lawyer may be able to take steps to initiate income withholdings or take payments out of tax refunds. The CSEA may take further actions, such as reporting the support debt to credit card bureaus. Legal action is sometimes taken through the courts as well since the failure to pay child support is considered contempt of court.

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