North Carolina Child Support & Overnight Calculations

North Carolina child support is based on overnight totals

North Carolina uses overnight totals in its child support formula to determine the amount of child support in your divorce case.

Besides income, overnight totals are a key part of the North Carolina child support formula. Your parenting time directly affects your child support, whether you pay or receive.

Most overnight time totals are estimates (and thus incorrect)

North Carolina attorneys and judges often rely on overnight estimates only, even if they are incorrect, because counting total hours is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents often rely on these estimates as well.

Using estimates means your overnight totals are wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. This means your child support amount will not be fair or exact.

How to calculate overnights instead of relying on estimates

To calculate overnights, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to count each night for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.

The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Overnights Now

Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total parenting time, and you can see how your overnights change each year due to holidays and other events.

You can also track what actually happens, and show how much time you've actually received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.

Fast facts on child custody and child support in North Carolina

In any divorce, North Carolina family courts award custody of the children to one or both parents. Custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody. The total parenting time factors into the child support formula for both sole and joint custody.

North Carolina sole physical custody: The children reside with and are supervised by the residential parent, while the other parent is entitled to scheduled visitations.

In North Carolina, sole physical custody is given to the parent with whom the children spend the most time with. The non-residential parent hosts the children for fewer than 123 overnights, or 33 percent.

North Carolina joint physical custody: Each parent has significant periods of physical custody, which allows them frequent and continuing contact with their children. North Carolina law outlines shared custody as any arrangement in which the child has regular and continuing contact with both parents.

Parenting time does not have to be equally divided to qualify for shared physical custody.  The non-residential parent must host the children for 123 overnights or more each year to qualify for joint custody.

North Carolina child support formula and parenting time adjustment

North Carolina family courts use formulas that consider both parents' incomes and the needs of the child to arrive at a monthly child support amount.  A parenting time adjustment is given based on joint custody.

Sole custody formula: The total income from the two parents is put into the formula and then a basic monthly support is figured by using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. Certain deductions are allowed when figuring total income.

To be considered a sole custody case, the non-residential parent spends fewer than 128 days per year, or less than 35 percent of the time, with the children. There is no parenting time credit given for sole custody situations. The residential parent receives child support from the non-residential parents according to North Carolina law.

Joint custody formula: Both income and overnights figure into the joint custody formula, unlike the one for sole custody. In North Carolina, when a family court orders joint physical custody, each parent must host the children for at least 128 days per year. The more overnights the non-residential parent receives, the lower the child support.

North Carolina child support formula and parenting time percentages

North Carolina family courts use formulas that consider both parents' incomes and the needs of the child to arrive at a monthly child support amount.  A parenting time adjustment is given based on joint custody.

Sole custody formula: The total income from the two parents is put into the formula. Certain deductions from that total are allowed. To be considered a sole custody case, the non-residential parent spends fewer than 123 days per year, or less than 33 percent of the time, with the children. There is no parenting time credit given for sole custody situations. The residential parent receives child support from the non-residential parents according to North Carolina law.

Joint custody formula: Both income and overnights figure into the joint custody formula, unlike the one for sole custody. In North Carolina, when a family court orders joint physical custody, each parent must host the children for at least 123 days per year. The more overnights the non-residential parent receives, the lower the child support.

Examples of sole child custody and North Carolina child support

Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert's adjusted income is $4,000 per month, while Mary's adjusted monthly income is $2,400. They have two children.

See how the child support amounts change in these examples:

  • Scenario #1: Robert is the non-residential parent in this sole custody case, and is scheduled to host the children for fewer than 123 days per year. He pays $840 in child support each month to Mary.
  • Scenario #2: Mary is the non-residential parent and hosts the children for fewer than 123 days per year. She pays $504 in child support to Robert.
In North Carolina sole custody cases, the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent, regardless of income.
Examples of the joint custody formula in North Carolina child support

Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert's adjusted income is $4,000 per month, while Mary's adjusted monthly income is $2,400. They have two children.

See how the child support amounts change in these examples:

  • Scenario #1: Robert hosts the children for 123 days or 33 percent, just over the minimum to qualify for shared physical custody. He pays $581 in child support per month to Mary.
  • Scenario #2: Robert hosts the children for 146 days, or 40 percent. He pays $454 in child support to Mary.
  • Scenario #3: Robert hosts the children for 165 days, or 45 percent. He pays $349 in child support to Mary.
  • Scenario #4: If Robert and Mary agreed to a 50/50 split, or 182 days, he pays $255 in child support. This is because he is the higher earner.

If Mary were the non-residential parent, she would pay child support to Robert, and be eligible for a parenting time adjustment based on the total number of overnights with the children.

Other factors in the North Carolina child support formula

North Carolina's child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for shared custody child support:

Eligible children: A parent is obligated to pay child support until each child is 18 years old, unless the child is enrolled in secondary school full time or turns 20 years old, whichever comes first.

Gross earnings: Gross earnings are established based on tax records and current pay stubs. North Carolina law requires the use of both parents' incomes from the equivalent of one full-time job to determine a child support amount.

Specific deductions: There are some deductions allowed by North Carolina family courts that allow an adjustment of the income, including health insurance premiums for the children, support for other children and child care expenses, for example.

How accurate child support helps your children

Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.

Here are some other reasons why accurate overnight numbers help you, the other parent and your children:

  • It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
  • It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
  • It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
  • It is compliant with North Carolina law

Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.

Top 5 things to remember about North Carolina child support and overnights

To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in North Carolina, remember these 5 things:

  1. North Carolina Child Support Guidelines award sole or joint physical custody primarily based on the number of overnights the non-residential parent receives.
  2. Sole physical custody means that the non-residential parent is scheduled for fewer than 123 days with the children per year. A parenting time credit is not given in sole custody cases in North Carolina.
  3. A parenting time credit is given in shared custody cases to non-residential parents when the non-residential parent hosts the children for 123 overnights or more. The more overnights there are, the lower the child support amount.
  4. In the case of an approximate 50/50 split in parenting time, the higher earner pays child support to the lower earner.
  5. The non-residential parent always pays child support to the residential parent.

Use Custody X Change software to create a custody schedule that will quickly calculate the total parenting time for the North Carolina child support formula.

As you negotiate what kind of custody schedule will best fit your needs, the software will accurately calculate your overnights.


The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Time

The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Overnights Now