How Does Back Child Support Work in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, child support payments over 30 days late are considered delinquent.
In North Carolina, child support payments over 30 days late are considered delinquent. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

In North Carolina, the state’s Child Support Enforcement Program helps parents collect their unpaid child support. Typically, the noncustodial parent or the parent without legal physical custody of minor children is required to pay support. North Carolina’s "long-arm" jurisdiction allows the state to require the noncustodial parent to pay support even when he moves to another state by requesting that the other state enforce North Carolina’s child support order.

North Carolina Child Support Services

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services can help custodial parents with support enforcement services through the state, regardless of their income. The state can help locate noncustodial parents ordered to pay support, help collect arrears if the custodial parent has an existing support order and can help set up initial support cases. The agency can help establish paternity if the parents were never married, but under North Carolina law, children born during marriage are presumptively the children of both parents.

Income Withholdings

North Carolina law allows parents to receive child support payments through automatic income withholding, and state law requires employers to send withheld wages within seven days. Employers may not withhold more than 40 percent of an employee's disposable income to satisfy a child support order or more than 45 percent of an employee's income if they are required to pay child support to different parents.

Motion to Show Cause

In North Carolina, the parent ordered to pay support is generally not subject to criminal prosecution for failing to pay child support unless the custodial parent has filed a “Motion and Order to Show Cause,” and the court finds the noncustodial parent has not given a legally sufficient reason for failing to pay support. If a court sentences the noncustodial parent to serve jail time, the judge will set a “purge” or amount he must pay before he can be released. The purge amount is the support amount currently due plus the amount in arrears.

Modifications and Enforcement

Under North Carolina, either parent can request a review or modification of support orders once every three years. North Carolina courts may modify existing support orders if there is a change of circumstances warranting deviation. The state can enforce child support orders by revoking driver’s licenses, revoking professional licenses and intercepting state and federal tax refunds. The minimum threshold requirement for interception is $50 in back support for state taxes and $500 for federal taxes (or $150 for cases where the paying party receives governmental public assistance). To have a professional license or a driver’s license revoked, the noncustodial parent must be at least 90 days behind in payments.


Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.

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