Child Support

Child Support Services is a nationwide program to ensure that both parents support their children to the extent of their ability. The federal legislation mandating the Child Support Program is Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Sometimes, the program is called the IV-D (4-D) program. In Catawba County, this program is administered by Social Services.

Child support is based on the needs of the child and the parents’ ability to provide support. This means that the absent parent(s) may either voluntarily agree to an amount of support per NC guidelines, or the amount may be set by the court. We will use local, state and federal resources to help you locate a non-supporting parent, help you get a legal child support order, help you establish paternity, and help you collect child support payments. Please note that issues concerning custody and visitation are not a part of the child support process.

We are located at the Catawba County Social Services building in Hickory (see our address and location map to the left). Our phone number is (828) 695-4405. For more information, you may also call the State of North Carolina Child Support Office at 1-800-992-9457.

Glossary of Commonly Used Terms

Services can be provided to any North Carolina parent or custodian regardless of income level. Individuals receiving Work First Family Assistance and Medicaid are automatically referred to the local child support enforcement agency. Persons receiving public assistance are required to cooperate with child support enforcement as a condition of their eligibility for assistance. Persons not receiving public assistance may apply for and receive child support services upon the payment of a $10.00 or $25.00 application fee, based on income guidelines from the Federal Register. This includes aunts, uncles, grandparents, court-appointed guardians, or others who are caring for a child.

Federal law requires state child support enforcement agencies to initiate income withholding in order to ensure that parents obligated to pay support meet this obligation. North Carolina income withholding laws allow for immediate income withholding in orders for child support.

In the event income withholding cannot be established immediately, the obligated parent would be subject to income withholding under any of the following circumstances:

  • Being delinquent by as much as one month's support
  • Upon request of the obligated parent
  • Upon request of the custodial parent or guardian of the child

Maximum Amount That Can Be Withheld Per Pay Period

Under no circumstances can the percentage of disposable income withheld for child support exceed the following:

  • 40 percent of disposable income when only one support order exists
  • 45 percent of disposable income when multiple support orders exist and the obligated parent is supporting a spouse or other children
  • 50 percent of disposable income when multiple support orders exist and the obligated parent is not supporting a spouse or other children

Child Support Services will decide the best way to collect the child support ordered to be paid by the absent parent. All new or modified child support orders must contain a provision for income withholding to take effect immediately. If this is not possible, Child Support Services is responsible for any follow-up action that may include court proceedings and the interception of the absent parent's state and/or federal income tax refunds.

When a parent refuses to pay court-ordered child support or does not pay the full amount, Child Support Services may do one or more of the following:

  • Request immediate wage withholding
  • Refer the case for intercept of federal and state income tax refunds
  • File a lien on real or personal property
  • Refer the past-due support debt to credit reporting agencies
  • Request the suspension or revocation of a professional license or a driver's licenses
  • File a contempt of court action

Effective January 1, 2007, the Clerks of Superior Court throughout the State of North Carolina no longer have the duty or obligation to provide enforcement for child support cases. This reduces the child's caretaker to three choices in the enforcement of child support: 1) to act pro se; 2) to hire counsel; or 3) to contract with child support enforcement.

The law requires that both parents provide for the financial needs of their child. Establishing paternity (fatherhood) is necessary only when the mother is not married to the father of the child. In that case, paternity must be legally determined before there can be a legal child support order.

Establishing paternity also strengthens the child’s emotional growth by knowing who his or her parents are and their medical history. Additionally, establishing paternity can determine if your child is entitled to certain benefits, including Social Security or veteran’s benefits, that may be passed on from his or her parent.

Do We Need to Establish Paternity Now?

Yes. Although the relationship between the mother and father may be good now, things may change in the future. Something could also happen to the father. It’s always best to settle the paternity issue as soon as possible to protect your child’s future.

How to Establish Paternity

In North Carolina, the father can acknowledge that he is the father at the time of the child’s birth by signing an Affidavit of Parentage from the hospital. This allows the father’s name to be placed on the birth certificate. Fathers can also voluntarily acknowledge their paternity by signing a statement later. This statement is presented to a court to obtain an Order of Paternity.

If there is any doubt about the paternity of a child, genetic testing is available. This test will either show that a man is not the father of a child, or it will show the probability that he is the child’s father. If the parents do not agree voluntarily to establish paternity, legal action may be filed with the court which will determine paternity.