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Legal Information: North Carolina

Child Support

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December 22, 2023

In what ways may the court order child support to be paid?

The court may order that child support be paid:

  • in a lump sum payment;
  • by periodic payments, which means payments are weekly or monthly; and/or
  • by giving personal property of the parent paying support to the parent receiving support.1

Note: If the paying parent has fallen behind in payment (“arrearages”) and the parent who has to pay is the sole owner of certain land or real estate, the court may order the land or real estate to be given to the other party if the value of the real estate is not more than the arrearages.1

1 NCGS § 50-13.4(e)

I don’t think the non-custodial parent will pay me the child support s/he owes. Can his/her income be withheld right away to collect the money for child support?

If the child support order was entered on or after January 1, 1994, the court does not have to wait for the person ordered to pay child support to miss a payment before ordering income withholding,1 also known as “assignment of wages”. Although often times, a judge will include income withholding in the order automatically, you may want to ask for income withholding in the original order to make sure the judge considers and includes this provision.

1 NCGS § 50-13.4(d1)

If the paying parent fails to pay support, what can be done to enforce the child support order?

Below are several things that a court can do to enforce a child support order but other ways may be available as well.  To figure out what may likely happen in your case, you may want to talk to a lawyer.  The judge can do one or more of the following:

  1. order the paying parent to post a bond, which is when s/he leaves a sum of money with the clerk of superior court, that could be given to the parent receiving child support if the support isn’t paid;
  2. order the paying parent to have his/her employer deduct the money from his/her wages, income or salary and have it sent directly to the parent receiving child support, which is known as an “assignment of wages” or “income withholding;”
  3. order the paying parent to give to the parent receiving support certain personal property or land/real estate;
  4. have the paying parent arrested and be required to post bail in an amount set by the judge;
  5. “attach” the paying parent’s assets, which basically means that the parent receiving support becomes a creditor and gets a lien against the paying parent’s assets. The parent can enforce the lien just as any creditor could. (A lien is a legal claim upon the property of another person to secure the payment of a debt). Note: The child can also become a creditor against the paying parent if the parent fraudulently gives away property or assets in order to hide them from being used to pay off his/her child support arrears;
  6. issue an injunction to order the paying parent to do something or to not do something – for example, the paying parent may be ordered not to sell certain property or remove money from bank accounts, etc.;
  7. appoint a “receiver,” which is a person the judge chooses to control the paying parent’s money and property and see that the support is paid;
  8. hold the paying parent in civil contempt for failing to make payments if you file a petition for contempt and the judge can sentence the parent to the punishments available for criminal contempt,1 which is a fine of up to $500, imprisonment up to 30 days, or up to 120 days if the sentence is suspended as long as the parent pays, or both;2 and
  9. suspend the paying parent’s license(s) after s/he becomes one month behind in support.3

You can talk to a lawyer or your local child support enforcement agency about all the ways you can collect past due child support.  For legal referrals, go to our NC Finding a Lawyer page.

1 NCGS § 50-13.4(f)
2 NCGS § 5A-12(a)(3)
3 NCGS § 50-13.12(b)

My license was suspended because I fell behind in my child support. How can I get my license back?

If you lose your license for failing to pay support, you can file a petition in district court to get your license back. The judge can give you back your license as long as you fully pay off the past-due support over time and you keep up with your current child support payments.1

1 NCGS § 50-13.12(d)

If I have to enforce an order from North Carolina or from another state, can I get help?

There may be a couple of ways to get help to enforce an order from North Carolina or from another state.  If you request it, you may get help from your local child support enforcement agency.1  Also, the district attorney may represent you if you have brought a criminal action against the person who owes you support or in certain other cases.  Lastly, you may get your own attorney.2

1 NCGS § 52C-3-307
2 NCGS §§ 52C-3-308; 52C-3-308.1

I have a child support order from another state but now I live in North Carolina. Can I enforce it in North Carolina?

Generally, there may be two ways to enforce an out-of-state support order: administratively, which means through the child support enforcement agency or through the court.

To enforce an order administratively, you would have to send certain documents to your local child support enforcement agency and they can attempt to enforce it as they would enforce a North Carolina order.1  However, the paying parent has the right to object to this. If s/he does, then the agency would have to register the order in court.2 

You also have the option to register the order in court to enforce it.  (To see what types of documents are necessary for registering an out-of-state order in a North Carolina court, please see our Selected North Carolina Statutes page, section 52C-6-602). The other parent has 20 days after receiving the notice of the registration of the order to object.  An objection would be made by filing papers in court to request a hearing if s/he thinks the child support order is not valid or that the order should not be enforced in North Carolina.  If s/he asks for a hearing, the judge has to set the case for hearing and notify all of the parties the date, time and place for the hearing.3  If the other parent does not request a hearing within 20 days, the order becomes registered, or confirmed, as it is called.4

You might want to talk with a lawyer or the child support enforcement agency in your county’s Division of Social Services to get some help and to find out exactly what documents you’d need to send in to register the order because it can be complicated.  You may also want to get a lawyer if your case is set down for a hearing.  For legal referrals, go to our NC Finding a Lawyer page.

1 NCGS § 52C-5-507(a)
2 NCGS § 52C-5-507(b)
3 NCGS § 52C-6-602(a), (c)
4 NCGS § 52C-6-602(b)

Can the court order the other parent to pay my attorney’s fees?

In some cases, the court may order the person who refuses to pay child support to pay the other parent’s attorney’s fees. Alternatively, if the judge believes that one parent has filed ameaningless (frivolous) court case, the judge may order the person who brought the frivolous case to pay the other parent’s attorney’s fees.1

1 NCGS § 50-13.6