Nights a child spends with a parent does not necessarily determine how child support should be calculated.
The North Carolina child support guidelines require that child support be computed using either Worksheet A, B or C. Worksheet B is used when the parents share custody of all of the children for whom support is being determined. Parents share custody of a child if (a) the child lives with each parent for at least 123 nights during the year and (b) each parent assumes financial responsibility for the child’s expenses during the time the child lives with that parent.
Often, parents, attorneys, child support agents and even judges focus on the first part of this definition and ignore the second. In other words, if it is determined a child lives with each parent for at least 123 nights, the evaluation stops there. Worksheet B is used and no consideration is given to whether each parent actually assumes their respective financial responsibility for the child.
In a recent unpublished case, the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s decision to ignore Worksheet B in calculating Father’s child support obligation even though he had his two sons between 130 and 140 days per year. (Cabbs v. Cabbs, COA11-1536, August 7, 2012). After a hearing on Father’s motion to modify child support, the trial court found that the Mother had assumed responsibility for the bulk of the children’s expenses and, therefore, using Worksheet B (which would have resulted in a lower child support award) was inappropriate. Worksheet B should be used to calculate child support only if the number of night threshold is met and there is a “true sharing of expenses” by the parents. In this case, both parents paid for food, some clothing and utilities when the children were with the respective parent. However, Mother paid for the bulk of the children’s clothing expenses, extracurricular activities, transportation expenses, camp’s, memberships, gifts, birthday parties, cell phones and other expenses. Thus, the trial judge calculated Father’s child support obligation using Worksheet A which resulted in a higher child support award.
As with any other issues arising from your separation or divorce, you should discuss these issues with a North Carolina Family Law Specialist. Feel free to contact me, Monty Beck, Western North Carolina Family Law Specialist to discuss these issues.