North Carolina's Laws on Child Support for Unemployed Parents

Understanding Child Support in North Carolina for Unemployed Parents

Child support is a critical element in ensuring that children's basic needs are met following the separation or divorce of their parents. In North Carolina, both parents are legally obligated to contribute to the financial support of their children, regardless of employment status. This article delves into the intricacies of how child support is determined and enforced for unemployed parents in the Tar Heel State.

Determining Child Support Obligations

In North Carolina, child support calculations are based on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, which take into account the income of both parents, the number of children, and the custody arrangement, among other factors. However, when a parent is unemployed, determining child support becomes more complex.

For an unemployed parent, the court typically considers several factors:

When a parent has no employment due to circumstances beyond their control, such as layoffs or company closures, the court may adjust child support payments to reflect current financial situations. However, it is incumbent upon the unemployed parent to demonstrate efforts made towards finding new employment.

Modification of Child Support Orders

If an unemployed parent cannot meet their child support obligations due to their employment situation, they have the option to seek a modification of the child support order. It's imperative to file a motion with the court promptly because changes to child support orders are not retroactive and only apply from the date of filing forward.

Enforcement and Consequences for Non-Payment

When an unemployed parent fails to pay child support, enforcement measures can be taken by the North Carolina Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program. These measures include wage withholding from unemployment benefits, intercepting tax refunds, or even license suspensions. Non-payment can also lead to contempt of court charges, which carry additional penalties.

Historical References and Legal Precedent

The evolution of child support laws in North Carolina reflects an ongoing commitment to children's welfare. For instance, in Bowen v. Bowen, a 1989 case, the North Carolina Court of Appeals underscored the principle that both parents bear responsibility for supporting their children and that this obligation does not cease with unemployment.


In summary, North Carolina law requires unemployed parents to fulfill their child support obligations to the best of their ability. Courts have discretion in determining what constitutes a fair amount based on various factors surrounding unemployment. It is crucial for unemployed parents facing challenges in making payments to engage with legal processes proactively and seek modifications where warranted.