Child Support Child Support in New York: Answers to Frequent Questions

  1. This article answers frequent questions about child support law in New York. Child support is the financial obligation of one parent to pay the custodial parent to help raise the child both created together. Each parent shares in the expected costs of raising a child which include health and medical care, clothing and necessities, educational expenses as well as day care so that the custodial parent can also work and generate income. The calculation is based upon the income of both parents although much attention is focused on the net income of the parent making support payments.

    How long does the child support obligation last?


    Each parent is legally obligated to support their child until the child turns 21 years old. This is not to be confused with child custody issues that primarily revolve around the child being a minor until age 18, upon which he or she reaches the "age of the majority." While your legal obligation to support your child may be set initially at age 21, a child who turns 16 may no longer be your responsibility as a result of emancipation, adoption, entering military service or getting married. You will want to confirm with the court that your child support obligations have ended before you cease making payments.

    How are support payments calculated?


    The state of New York sets rates for calculating child support payment amounts. As of 2012 and the Child Support Standards Act, the award is based upon a fixed percentage of the parental income and the number of children in issue. Those rates are:
    • 1 child = 17%
    • 2 children = 25%
    • 3 children = 29%
    • 4 children = 31%
    • 5 or more children = At least 35%
    This chart applies to virtually all parental earnings up to $136,000 less deductions for New York City tax, FICA and Medicare. While there are many factors that affect that final amount of support obligations, the following represents how the calculation works in the simplest of examples. If the mother of a single child has sole custody and makes $40,000 annually and the father makes $60,000. The joint incomes of both parents are added together for a total of $100,000 in parental earnings. The New York state rate for one child is 17%, which amounts to a $17,000 child support obligation per year. The father is responsible for 60% of the parental earnings (60,000/100,000) and mother 40%, with each sharing proportionally in the child support obligation. 60% of the $17,000 child support obligation amounts to $10,200 annually which the father must pay the mother. This example assumes that the mother incurs the overwhelming majority of costs that are necessary for the care of the child. Other costs, such as day care expenses so the mother can work, may also be apportioned using the same rate.

    Do low and high incomes affect support calculations?


    New York has laws which deal with the hardship of financial obligations on low-income parents who do not have primary custody of their children. A parent whose income is below the Federal Poverty Level ($11,170 in 2012) pays only $25 per month and arrears are subject to a $500 cap. The state may also establish a $50 order for low income individuals below its poverty level ($15,080 in 2012.) It is important to note that New York State includes all of the following as income for the purpose of calculating child support obligations:
    • workers compensation and disability payments
    • social security, veterans and other government benefits (but typically not public assistance)
    • unemployment or retirement benefits
    With regard to high-incomes and parental earnings in excess of the $136,000 limit, the court may follow state guidelines or use its own discretion with regard to obligations resulting from the additional income. Some of the factors the court may use include:
    • the special needs of the child (such as mental or physical health);
    • a significant disparity in the financial resources and income between the parents;
    • the additional contributions a parent may make beyond financial (such as full time care at home);
    • the standard of living the child would have had if the divorce had not occurred;
    • the needs of each parent and their obligations to other children with another parent.

    Can I reduce my payment obligations? What if I can't afford them?


    A court may consider reducing the amount of your child support obligation but it requires that the court find that the current amount would be unfair or inappropriate. Most often, this requires you to prove to the court that there has been a substantial change in your ability to earn an income and make the payments. Examples include losing your job, becoming disabled and even being put into prison. You will need to petition the court which ordered the child support. A permanent or temporary modification may be granted.

    Can both parents to avoid court and agree to a payment amount?


    In the event that you and the other parent can come to an agreement to as to the amount of child support payment, you will still need a court order to make the agreement legally binding. The "best interests of the child" legal standard is of paramount importance in determining issues concerning a child. The agreement must be in writing and requires the following:
    • a statement as to the actual support obligation, the amount of the modification and valid reasons for the justification of the reduction;
    • both parties state they have been advised of New York Domestic Relations Law § 240 (1-b) and the Family Court Act § 413(1)(b);
    • both parties state that they have agreed to waive (forgo) their rights under law (and which may have awarded a higher payment amount);
    • court approval and the issuance of a court order (which ensures that the best interests of the child are still maintained.)
    Jurisdiction:
    • New York

    Michael M. Wechsler

    Michael M. Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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