Child Support Enforcement in North Carolina

Understanding how to enforce your child support order in North Carolina.

By , Attorney · Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School
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For a parent who should be, but is not, receiving child support on his or her child's behalf, it can be financially overwhelming. If you find yourself on the non-receiving end of child support, North Carolina has many resources for enforcing your current child support order or obtaining the child support to which your child is entitled.

Parents that attempt to shirk their duty to financially support their child can face severe penalties including fines, attorney's fees or jail time. This article provides a general overview of how to enforce your child support order in North Carolina. If after reading this article you have questions about enforcing or obtaining a child support order, contact a local family law attorney for assistance.

Overview of Child Support Obligations

When parents part ways, child support needs to be established. A child support order is determined either by a judge or the North Carolina Child Support Services (CSS) program. Once a certain amount of child support is designated, the parent required to pay support must do so as long as the support order exists. For more information on how child support is calculated in North Carolina, click here.

If you are the primary custodial parent of a child for whom you are not currently receiving child support, you can apply to receive child support through CSS. Review the CSS Policy Manual for more information on opening a case for child support.

North Carolina's Child Support Services

In North Carolina, CSS's services are available to parents who need help collecting child support, locating a parent or establishing paternity. Additionally, CSS enforces child support obligations by automatically deducting child support from the obligor parent's (parent required to pay child support) paycheck each month. In situations where the obligor parent does not receive monthly paychecks, CSS can withhold child support from that parent's unemployment insurance benefits, Worker's Compensation, Social Security benefits and veteran's disability benefits. Note that unless you qualify for a fee waiver, there is a $25 annual fee to use the program.

Child Support Enforcement

After a child support order has been established through CSS or through the North Carolina court system, the obligor parent must obey the support order. If the obligor parent fails to pay the full amount of child support, they can face contempt of court charges including significant fines and in some circumstances, jail time.

A parent who is not receiving the child support they are owed, may file a contempt action to enforce the child support order either on their own or with the help of a private attorney. If you decide to hire your own attorney, they will file paperwork on your behalf and attend the hearing with you. Nevertheless, if you are unable to afford an attorney, you can file the child support enforcement paperwork yourself. The forms needed to file a child support enforcement action, also called an Order to Show Cause, are available here or in hard copy form at your local courthouse. After you have filed the enforcement paperwork and properly delivered it to the other parent, the court will set a hearing on your Order to Show Cause. See an article on What is a Show Cause Hearing for more information. If you have additional questions on what forms to file or how to prepare for your child support enforcement hearing, contact a local family law attorney for advice.

What Happens to a Parent Who Refuses to Pay Support?

A judge may hold a parent in contempt if they have refused to pay the full amount of child support ordered. Contempt is effectively a declaration by the court that a parent has disobeyed a court order. The longer the parent has failed to pay support, the more likely they will be found in contempt. Not only will the non-paying parent have to pay the child support that is owing, they may also be subject to the following penalties:

  • garnishment of wages and/or income
  • seizure of real and personal property including car or home
  • seizure of insurance settlement
  • lien on business or home for child support owing
  • loss of occupational or professional license
  • loss of driver's license and passport
  • interception of tax refund
  • payment of other parent's attorney's fees
  • federal criminal prosecution
  • negative credit report
  • fines, and
  • jail time.


If you have additional questions about how to enforce a child support order in North Carolina, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance. For more information on enforcement of child support orders in North Carolina and to read the relevant child support statute, see North Carolina Statutes, Article 9, Chapter 110.

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