NCGS 50-13.9 states that the designated CSS agency has sole responsibility and authority in cases for:
Agency payment records are admissible evidence in any action to establish, enforce, or modify a child support order. The court shall allow the designated representative of the agency to declare the authenticity of the payment record. When a NCP is cited to appear in court, the designated CSS agency must ensure that all appropriate payment records are prepared and presented to the court.
The local CSS agency is also responsible for verifying employment and income information prior to the court date. If information is obtained through DES, New Hire, or Federal Case Registry (FCR) records, the local CSS agency should contact the employer to verify that the received information is correct.
Each case that meets contempt criteria needs to be investigated to determine which enforcement remedy is appropriate at that specific time. If the case record shows that the NCP has been found in contempt three (3) or more times since October 1, 1999, for failing to pay court-ordered child support, CSS can request the NCP’s driver, hunting, fishing and/or trapping license be suspended or that the vehicle registration be blocked.
The CSS caseworker is to be present in court on the date of the NCP's appearance and prepared to testify to the facts of the case. The CSS agency attorney or the District Attorney must be available to represent the agency.
When an individual appears in court for failure to pay past due child support, is unemployed, and has no resources with which to pay past due support, then the court can order that individual to participate in work activities such as public or private employment, job search and job readiness assistance, on-the-job training, community service, etc. Job search or participation in work activities can be court-ordered when establishing a child support obligation as well.
If a supporting party makes a direct payment to a party that is entitled to receive it, as evidenced by a canceled check, money order, or written receipt for a period when a payment was not made to the NCCSCC, the payment is not past due and arrearages do not accrue. When the court becomes aware of such a situation during an enforcement proceeding or a motion is filed to reduce the arrearages by the amount of the payment made directly to the custodial parent, the court can enter an order with a provision that the NCP be credited for that payment.
The responsible CSS caseworker should enter/modify the court order in ACTS to reduce the total amount of arrearages by the amount credited to the NCP. They should send an adjustment request ONLY if other adjustments are needed to the arrearages in ACTS. (EX: The totals of the order and distribution sides in ACTS should balance after the the court order modification, but they do not.) The Distribution Unit at the CSS Central Office makes the additional adjustments.
Criminal means of enforcement must not be used in CSS cases involving an unemancipated minor NCP. If the NCP is under age sixteen (16) and is charged with willful failure to support pursuant to NCGS 49-2, the minor is prosecuted as a delinquent juvenile. If convicted of the delinquency in juvenile court, NCGS 49-2 does not bar the juvenile from relitigating the issue of paternity in a later court action, nor from requesting that his/her juvenile record be expunged. However, other administrative and civil means of enforcement can be used to the same extent as CSS cases involving adult NCPs. Prior to bringing enforcement actions against minor NCPs who are in secondary school, verification of income or resources must be obtained whenever possible.
North Carolina's age of majority is eighteen (18) years of age. A parental obligation to support a child ends at that time, unless any of the following exceptions, identified at NCGS 50-13.4(c), apply:
When a support obligation for a child continues past the age of majority, CSS services are available for enforcement of the obligation.
A parent can choose to provide support for a child for a longer period of time than can be required by law. For example, parents can agree to provide support through college or continue support for a disabled child. Such agreements, which are incorporated into a divorce or other court order, are binding and take precedence over statutory requirements.
When the child is receiving a high school education through an alternative arrangement not included at NCGS 50-13.4(c), eligibility for continued support must be assessed on a case by case basis.
If the support order includes statutory or alternate provisions for support beyond the age of eighteen (18), the support obligation continues without any further order of the court and remains in effect until the child no longer meets the stated criteria.
A party who believes that support should terminate under other circumstances or otherwise be modified can elect to file a motion with the court to modify the support obligation.
When the current support obligation terminates, NCGS 50-13.4(c) requires that payments on any remaining arrearages continue in the same total amount that was due under the terms of the order or income withholding that was in effect at that time.
Ninety (90) days before a child's emancipation date, ACTS notifies the responsible caseworker. The caseworker should request information from the custodial parent/ custodian or other sources to determine whether the child meets any criteria for continued support, using the Letter Regarding 18 Year Old Child Still In School (DSS-4567).
If the support obligation is another state's order, eligibility for extension of support is determined by the law of the order state. The caseworker should determine the child's school status and refer to the IRG (Intergovernmental Referral Guide) for information on the order state's law.
If the child meets any criteria for continued support, the caseworker must notify the custodial parent/ custodian and the NCP that the support obligation will continue. An NCP who is not in agreement with a determination of continued support could elect to file a motion for termination of the obligation with the court.
When the child no longer meets any criteria for continued support, the caseworker must determine whether there are any amounts of unpaid support due.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program that provides financial benefits to disabled adults and children with limited income and resources. Adults without disabilities over the age of sixty-five (65) could also receive SSI benefits if they meet the program's financial criteria.
Since SSI is considered a means-tested public assistance program, SSI benefits are not counted as income for the establishment, enforcement, or modification of child support obligations. However, if the NCP in a CSS case is an SSI recipient, the case should be processed to the extent possible. In cases where paternity is at issue, paternity establishment should be pursued even if CSS is unable to establish a child support order due to the NCP's only source of income being SSI.
When CSS workers become aware that the NCP is an SSI recipient, further research is required to determine if the NCP has other resources. For example, an SSI recipient could also receive Social Security (SSA) disability or retirement benefits and those SSA benefits can be used in the calculation and enforcement of child support orders. Other sources of income could be available to the SSI recipient, such as tobacco allotments or income from timber harvesting sales. Only upon further research indicating that no further sources of income are available to the NCP would it be appropriate to consider case closure.
If research indicates that SSI is the sole source of income that is available to the NCP, then the case might meet the requirements for case closure listed under 45 CFR:303.11(5), which states:
"The noncustodial parent cannot pay support for the duration of the child's minority because the parent has been institutionalized in a psychiatric facility, is incarcerated with no chance for parole, or has a medically-verified total and permanent disability with no evidence of support potential. The State must also determine that no income or assets are available to the noncustodial parent which could be levied or attached for support."
In these situations, the case should be documented concerning the unavailability of any other income or assets. A Case Closure Intent Notice (DSS-4617) should be sent the custodial parent, indicating the reason for closure. The order should be suspended, the CSS case closed, and the order redirected to the Clerk of Court.
Arrearages cannot accrue in the following situations:
NCGS 50-13.10 specifies that arrearages, once accrued, cannot normally be retroactively modified and are entitled to full faith and credit as a judgment as they accrue. The procedures for execution of the judgment remain the same as provided in NCGS 50-13.4(f)(8) and (10).
Arrearages can be modified in the following situations when a motion is filed with the court and notice is provided to all parties:
Only those arrearages that accrued from the time the party was precluded from filing a motion until the date of the hearing can be modified by the court.
Spousal support includes postseparation support and/or alimony. NCGS 50-16.2A and 50-16.3A allow that postseparation support and/or alimony, respectively, can be ordered by the court under specific circumstances. Postseparation support is intended to be a temporary payment for the benefit of the dependent spouse and generally ceases once an award of alimony is either allowed or denied by the court. For CSS's purposes, these types of payments to the custodial parent are considered "spousal support".
CSS does not have the authority to establish a spousal support order, but under 45 CFR sections 302.17 and 302.31, CSS is required to collect spousal support for a spouse or former spouse with whom the responsible parent's child is living when a child support order has been established and is being enforced by CSS. The child support and spousal support can be included in the same court order or in separate orders.
Most regularly used enforcement remedies are available to collect spousal support. NCGS 50-16.7 provides the enforcement remedies of civil contempt proceedings, liens, bonds, mortgages, or deeds of trust. Income withholding under NCGS 110-136.3 can be used to collect spousal support in CSS cases. The remedies of attachment and garnishment in Article 35 of Chapter 1 of the General Statutes are available to enforce spousal support orders; however, this procedure is different from garnishment as provided in NCGS 110-136 in that the garnishment is not ongoing.
State tax intercept can be used to collect past due spousal support. Federal regulation at 45 CFR 303.72 allows the use of IRS tax intercept for the collection of spousal support arrearages in CSS cases only when the child support and spousal support are included in the same court order.
When spousal support is contained in a different court order than the child support obligation, spousal support arrearages must not be certified for federal tax offset/intercept.
When all child support services are terminated for the child(ren) who are living with the spouse, spousal support services must also end. If the spousal support order is still valid, it should be redirected to the Clerk of Court.
For questions or clarification on any of the policy contained in these manuals, please contact your local county office.