Child Support Laws in North Dakota

Learn about the rules governing child support in North Dakota.

Both Parents Have a Duty to Support Their Children

In North Dakota, both parents have a duty to support their children to the best of their abilities. Although a court could order one or both parents to make payments, generally the non-custodial parent – the parent who spends less than half time with the child (or children) – actually pays support. The custodial parent – the one who is the child’s primary caregiver – remains responsible for child support too, but the law assumes that this parent spends the required amount directly on the child.

In most cases, child support payments continue through the end of the month in which the child graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever comes first. Parents could agree to pay for a longer period, however, or a court could order an extended period based on a child’s specific needs.

The amount of child-support generally depends on the number of children, the income of the non-custodial parent, and the custody arrangement. You can estimate your fair share of support by using a child support calculator, but that result is not guaranteed. A court can adjust the amount of support either up or down if it is in the child’s best interest or if it would be unreasonable to hold the non-custodial parent accountable at that rate.

Calculating Child Support Payments

North Dakota’s child support calculator is based on the state’s child support guidelines. The guidelines are simply a fee schedule, or formula. In addition to the amount determined by the guidelines, the non-custodial parent must also cover the child’s medical insurance if it is reasonable to do so. Otherwise, that cost will be split between the parents or paid by the custodial parent. Parents must also share childcare costs and other expenses, like those required for the child’s education.

To use the calculator, you need to know the non-custodial parent’s net income. To determine net income, you first need to calculate gross income.

Gross income is all income from all sources. This includes your salary, wages, bonuses and commissions from your job, but also any pension or severance pay. It is also money that comes from any royalties, dividends, or a trust, among other things.

If you are unemployed, chances are you still have income for child support purposes in the form of social security, workers’ compensation, unemployment or veterans’ benefits. Gifts and prizes – as long as they are more than $1,000 per year – and spousal support received count too.

Also, a court has the authority to impute income to a parent who is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed unless that parent has a good reason for working less or not at all. For example, a parent who can’t work due to a disability will not be held responsible for additional income. Also, a court will not impute income to a parent if it is in the child’s best interest that this parent stays home. To find out more about how much income could be imputed, you can use the following link to access the state’s worksheet on imputed income.

There are a few benefits that you can leave out of gross income like public assistance, supplemental security income, and food stamps. You can also exclude any support you pay for other children, and on rare occasions, a job benefit that you can’t liquidate (turn into cash) or control.

Once you have the non-custodial parent’s gross income, make deductions to determine the net income. Net income is gross income minus taxes (North Dakota uses a hypothetical tax rate for child support that you can see here), the child’s health care premiums, and costs for medical care. You can also deduct for union dues and some occupational license fees, as well as required retirement contributions and other costs of employment.

For more on what to include and everything you can deduct, see the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

Adjustments for Custody

The amount of time each parent spends with the child also impacts the amount of child support due. There are a variety of ways to share parenting time, but calculations differ based on whether you have sole custody (the child lives with only one parent most of the time), shared custody (the child lives part time with each parent), or split custody (where the parents divide the kids between them – mom takes the older child while dad has the younger child, for example). You will need to know your custody arrangements before you can calculate child support.

Challenging the Amount of Support

There is a rebuttable presumption – meaning, something will be assumed correct unless proven otherwise – that the amount of child support given by the guidelines is the correct amount. There is an exception, however, where the custodial parent’s income is three times higher than the non-custodial parent’s income. In such a case, a court may adjust the amount of support.

In all other cases, a parent can still have the amount of child support either increased or decreased by showing, with a preponderance of evidence, that deviating from the guidelines would be in the child’s best interest and at least one of the following:

  • support is sought for more than six children
  • the non-custodial parent’s monthly net income exceeds $12,500
  • the child does or will attend private school
  • the child has health concerns or a disability
  • an increased need of an older child
  • the custodial parent needs child care to find work or to complete training
  • the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay more or less
  • there are travel expenses due to visitation, and
  • the non-custodial parent’s has health concerns.

Modifying the Amount

Once a child support order is in place, you can still apply to Regional Child Support Enforcement Units to request a review of the amount. To justify a change in less than one year since the order was issued or modified, you must have an unforeseen material change in circumstances – like the loss of a job or birth of new baby, among other things. After one year, the standard for review is lower. You can read more about this on North Dakota’s Department of Human Services website under Services, Review and Adjustment.


In addition to the links above, North Dakota's Department of Human Services has many tools to explain the process of establishing, modifying, or enforcing a child support order.

To use the on-line Child Support Calculator, you must have Excel 2007 or later.

If you would like to read the law on child support, you can find it in the North Dakota Century Code Chapter 14-09.

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