North Carolina, like other states in the union, has statutory child support guidelines that have been created by the North Carolina legislature. Child support guidelines were put in place to stop the never-ending court battles over child support.
Generally, child support ends when a child turns 18 and finishes high school. Child support is intended to benefit the children, not support the other parent. Child support is meant to cover clothing food and shelter, but it can be used to meet other needs of a child such as school expenses, extracurricular activities, and medical and dental needs.
The guidelines are not without problems, however. Often child support doesn’t cover all of a child’s expenses, particularly children of affluent couples. Statutory child support doesn’t differentiate in amount between the needs of a 3-year-old and a 16-year-old. Some children go to private school, have their own computer, or participate in pricey sports or other extracurricular activities. Others may have medical expenses or may need braces. As they get older, there are haircuts, prom dresses, cars, gas and insurance. The list goes on!!
As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, I want my clients to look beyond simply paying statutory child support, and examine and come to an understanding as to what that child support should cover and whether it covers all of the expenses of their child(ren). I ask my clients to do something most have never done before, which is to figure out how much they spend on their children and prepare a budget. Then they need to negotiate and agree upon what is covered by statutory child support. For the remaining expenses, they will need to decide how those will be split; 50/50, in proportion to their incomes, or some other way.
It might be a good idea, so you can always prove you paid statutory child support, to pay that directly to your ex-spouse. For the remaining expenses, an option is to have both spouses put a set amount of money in a joint bank account so that both parents have access to the funds for the agreed upon budgeted extra expenses. What is the advantage of this? Either parent can use this joint account to make payments when Janey goes to piano lessons or when Johnny goes to the orthodontist. It also keeps kids from being put in the middle.
I think this is a fabulous system if parents can make it work. It requires parents who can cooperate and trust each other (my ideal clients), and it requires that they revisit the child budget regularly, at least once per year and when any extraordinary expense arise. I’d like to take credit for this idea, but I can’t. Three very respected mediators wrote a book called The Child Support Solution, which I recommend you read if you think using a child support account could work for you.