Child Support: What You Need to Know
In New York, child support payments are a component of child custody. In most cases, the custodial parent receives direct payments from the noncustodial parent until the child or children reach emancipation. New York has specific requirements for the amount of child support the noncustodial parent must pay, essentially, the child support payments cover the living costs for the child i.e. expenses related to power, water, clothing, and groceries. However, there are additional “add ons” such as medical expenses, summer camp, childcare and extracurricular activities, in addition to basic child support. These expenses are typically shared by the parties on a pro rata basis.
The Basis of Child Support
In New York, child support is determined on both parents’ combined incomes and the number of children. The applicable percentages in New York are: 17% of income for one child, 25% of income for two children, 29% of income for three children, 31% of income for four children, and 35% income for five or more children. Once an amount of child support is established, i.e., $25,000 per year for two children based on a combined parental income of $100,000, then the court apportions each parent’s responsibility based upon the proportion of their income to the entire amount. For example, if the non-custodial parent earned $60,000 per year and the custodial parent earned $40,000 per year, then the non-custodial parent would be required to pay 60% of $25,000, or $15,000 per year. The child support “cap” is currently at $148,000, which means if combined income is more than this amount, the court has discretion to deviate from the above standard. When combined parental income is in excess of $148,000, the court can apply a strict amount in accordance with the calculation, or if the support would be unjust or inappropriate, the court will deviate from the $148,000 cap. The factors for deviation are located in Domestic Relations Law §240(1)(f). A few of these factors are: the financial resources of the custodial and non-custodial parent; the physical and emotional health of the child and his/her special needs and aptitudes; the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage or household not been dissolved, etc.
Medical Insurance, Expenses and Childcare
In a divorce case, all requirements for health insurance and any special medical needs are listed in the agreement separately from child support payments. The noncustodial parent won’t receive a deduction in their child support payments by paying for coverage for the child or by paying the cost of consistently required medical costs. Instead, they are “added on” to the basic child support payments. The standard calculation to determine “add ons” such as medical and child care is “pro rata” in proportion to the parties’ income.
Increases & Decreases in Child Support Payments
Either parent has the legal right to petition the court for an increase or decrease in child support payments. This is typically known as an upward or downward modification. There are three elements a parent needs to show: first, a substantial change in circumstances; second, three years have passed since the order was issued; and third, a 15% increase or decrease in either parent’s income since the original order was issued. Moreover, if a parent is getting paid through support collections and there is a change in the cost of living index, the parent will receive notice that he or she is entitled to a cost of living increase. The parent then has the choice to accept or object to the increase. When objections are heard, a de novo review of the parties’ incomes and financial circumstances is triggered. This does not automatically result in an increase in support, even where the payor spouse has increased income. In Murray v. Murray, 164 A.D.3d 1451 (2d Dept. 2018), a case in which Ms. Greenberg represented the payor spouse, the payee spouse actually received a reduction in support when the court looked at the totality of the circumstances, including the fact that the payee spouse’s income doubled and the payor spouse had additional responsibilities.
Failure to Pay Child Support Payments
The custodial parent has the legal right to report the noncustodial parent if they don’t pay child support. This is what is known as an enforcement petition. If a non-custodial parent is behind on payments, there are certain punishments the payor can face. One punishment is when the payor has an income deduction on their salary. This means that on each pay period that the payor gets paid, an amount is withdrawn and paid towards the child support obligation. A second punishment is suspension of the payor’s license. Lastly, the payor can face jail time for lack of payment.
For those in need of legal assistance regarding a child custody or other family law case, contact our Garden City family lawyers to determine your available options.