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North Carolina's Stand on Child Support Modification Due to Loss of Employment

Understanding Child Support Modification in North Carolina

In the state of North Carolina, child support is a legal obligation designed to provide financial assistance for the needs of a child when parents are divorced, separated, or never married. The amount of child support is typically determined based on the parents' incomes, the needs of the child, and custody arrangements. However, life circumstances can change, including the loss of employment by the non-custodial parent who is responsible for paying child support. When this happens, it is essential to understand how North Carolina law handles child support modification.

Grounds for Child Support Modification

In North Carolina, child support orders can be modified if there has been a "substantial change in circumstances." Loss of employment can constitute such a change, but it is not automatically assumed as substantial. The parent seeking modification must demonstrate that the job loss has significantly impacted their ability to pay the original amount of child support.

Legal Process for Modification

To initiate a modification, the parent must file a motion with the court that issued the original child support order. This motion should provide evidence of the job loss and any severance pay or unemployment benefits received. The court will then review the case to determine whether there is indeed a substantial change in circumstances that justifies a modification.

Temporary vs. Permanent Modifications

A job loss may lead to either temporary or permanent modifications of child support payments. If the job loss is expected to be short-term, the court may grant a temporary reduction or suspension. On the other hand, if re-employment prospects are bleak or if new employment comes with significantly lower wages, a permanent modification may be more appropriate.

What Does Not Constitute a Substantial Change?

It's important to note that not all job losses will qualify for modification. For instance, if the court finds that the unemployment is voluntary or due to misconduct at work leading to termination, it may decline to modify the support order.

Historical References and Examples

An illustrative case is Smith v. Smith (not a real case for example purposes), where after losing his job, Mr. Smith sought a reduction in his child support payments. The North Carolina court granted a temporary reduction after examining his employment prospects and current financial status, emphasizing that Mr. Smith was actively seeking new employment.

The Role of Legal Assistance

Navigating child support modification can be complex, and securing legal representation is often beneficial. An attorney can help present evidence effectively and ensure that all procedural requirements are met.


The loss of employment can be a valid reason for modifying child support payments in North Carolina, but it requires proof of substantial change in circumstances. Parents facing this situation should file a motion promptly and be prepared to provide comprehensive evidence regarding their financial situation.