In North Carolina, child support is determined using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. If parents have a combined adjusted gross income of over $360,000.00 per year, they are not subject to the guidelines. Instead, the court will use its discretion to set a support amount that meets the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance having due regard to the estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties. Parents who earn less than $360,000.00 combined adjusted gross income per year will be subject to the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. and most typically, Worksheet B, where each parent assumes financial responsibility for the child’s expenses during the time the child lives with that parent since custody is shared. Additionally, there is Worksheet A, when one parent has primary physical custody of all children whom support is being determined and Worksheet C when primary physical custody of two or more children is split between the parents. After determining how child support will be decided whether on the guidelines or off, parents may have to face the question of whether they may be required to pay for private school tuition.   

Typically, the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines do not include private school tuition. However, on each Worksheet, private school may be classified by the court as an “extraordinary expense.” The Guidelines specifically state that extraordinary expenses include, “expenses related to special or private elementary or secondary schools to meet a child’s particular educational needs,” and if the court determines the extraordinary expenses of private school is reasonable, necessary, and in the child’s best interest, the cost of private school will be included in the child support award. 
For parents who are off the guidelines, meaning they earn more than $360,000.00 combined per year, the court will look at the accustomed standard of living that the children enjoyed during the marriage. To determine whether a parent will be required to pay for private tuition, a court will look at the actions of each parent. For example, they may look at whether it was the mutual intent of both parents to have their child attend private school or if it was the preference of one parent. In a recent North Carolina Court of Appeals decision, the Court of Appeals held that “trial court’s conclusion that private school is a reasonable need of the children is fully supported by the court’s findings of fact that private school is part of the children’s accustomed standard of living, that the parties are capable of paying the tuition, and that the parties have previously agreed that their children would be educated in private school.” Ultimately, off the guidelines, the decision to require a parent to pay for private tuition will be in the discretion of the trial judge.  

Additionally, parents may decide to enter into a Separation Agreement which addresses who will pay for the children’s private school tuition. If that is the case, the parties while be responsible for making this determination and having it drafted into the private agreement.

If you or someone you know may have a situation where any of the above-mentioned situations are involved, contact Hatcher Law Group for a consultation with an experienced family law attorney to understanding your rights and options moving forward.