January 2021 | COA19-600 (N.C. App. 2020)

Bishop v. Bishop (North Carolina 2020)

A child’s reasonable needs are based upon the ability of the parents to provide. Trial courts have wide discretion when determining needs and can consider the parent’s lifestyle and standard of living. The mother filed to modify the divorce decree based on the father’s increased income. His income came from many sources: base salary, bonuses, and stock. The final order increased support and adjusted the percentages for unreimbursed medical expenses. The father appealed. He argued the amount of child support exceeded the child’s reasonable needs and that his income had actually decreased. The appellate court affirmed the order. To determine the child’s needs, the trial court correctly considered both parents lifestyles and the disparity in their incomes.  The issue is the child’s needs, not the parent’s ability to pay. The father argued his income had decreased since entry of the original order. The original decree made findings about his increases in income in the years before the divorce but didn’t specifically set out a monthly income amount. He urged the appellate court to review the original income calculation to determine a specific monthly amount. The appellate court noted the original decree wasn’t appealed, and the order contained a specific enough finding with respect to his monthly income. Using that figure, his monthly increase had clearly increased.

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