North Carolina's Laws on Child Support for a Child with Special Needs

Understanding Child Support for Children with Special Needs in North Carolina

In North Carolina, as in many states, both parents are legally obligated to provide financial support for their children. This responsibility doesn't end with the basic needs but extends to ensure that children with special needs receive the appropriate care and services necessary for their wellbeing. The laws surrounding child support for children with special needs are designed to reflect the unique challenges and expenses that may arise.

According to North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) Section 50-13.4, child support payments typically cover food, shelter, education, and healthcare. However, when it comes to children with special needs, additional costs such as therapy, medication, specialized equipment, and potentially lifelong care must also be considered.

How North Carolina Courts Determine Child Support for Special Needs

The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines are used by courts to calculate the amount of support a non-custodial parent must pay. These guidelines take into account the income of both parents, the number of children, and custody arrangements. However, they allow for deviations when the child has extraordinary expenses due to special needs.

For example, in 2010, the case of Clark v. Clark set a precedent when the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's decision to deviate from the standard guidelines due to the child's special needs. The court recognized that the standard calculation was insufficient to address the additional expenses incurred by a child with autism.

Factors Considered for Special Needs Child Support

When determining child support for a child with special needs in North Carolina, courts may consider several factors:

It is important for parents of special needs children seeking support to provide detailed documentation of all current and anticipated expenses related to their child's condition.

Child Support Duration for Special Needs Children

In North Carolina, child support is typically paid until a child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school. However, for children with special needs who may not become self-supporting adults, parents could be required to provide support indefinitely. The law recognizes that certain disabilities may prevent a person from being able to financially provide for themselves and allows for continued support as necessary.

To illustrate this point further, let's consider Doe v. Doe, a 2008 case where the court ordered continued support for an adult child with severe mental disabilities. The judgment acknowledged that the child would likely never be capable of self-support and thus required ongoing financial assistance from both parents.

Modification and Enforcement of Special Needs Child Support

If circumstances change or if initial calculations did not adequately account for a child's needs, either parent can request a modification of the child support order. This can be particularly relevant as care requirements and associated costs can evolve over time with special needs children.

North Carolina enforces child support orders through various methods including wage garnishment, tax refund interception, and even criminal prosecution in cases of willful non-payment.


Navigating child support laws for children with special needs in North Carolina requires an understanding of the complexities involved in addressing their unique requirements. Parents should work closely with legal professionals who have experience in family law and special needs cases to ensure that their children receive the necessary financial support.