parent figuring out child's expenses

How Children’s Expenses Are Divided in a Divorce

By Michael DiFalco

Divorce can be particularly taxing for couples who share children. On top of complicated asset division, you and your spouse will need to make difficult decisions about the future of your children.

New York law requires divorced parents to provide financial support for their children and cover basic needs such as food, clothing, and healthcare.

Although many decisions on how you’ll care for your children post-divorce are largely up to you and your spouse, child support is a mandatory legal obligation. Failure to comply with child support conditions set by the courts can result in serious consequences.  

New York Child Support Basics

The principal function of any New York divorce is to divide assets equitably. Depending on your situation, you and your spouse will work together to establish an uncontested divorce, or you’ll proceed directly to court through a contested divorce. 

As part of the divorce framework, a judge will oversee the division of your assets, debts, and other finances. When it comes to minor children, you will have to make tough parenting choices, including:

  • Child support and other financial matters
  • Parenting and visitation schedules
  • Custody rights
  • Healthcare decisions 
  • School and extracurricular activities 
  • Transportation

While many couples approach their divorce amicably and work together to make mutually beneficial arrangements, some situations may be more divisive. It’s not uncommon for parents to become entangled in a contentious fight over child-related expenses, custody rights, and other legal factors. 

Child Support Calculations in New York

In New York, child support calculations go through the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA). Under current statutes, children are entitled to receive child support until the age of 21. In some cases, this can be extended one more year to age 22.

In cases of children with developmental disabilities, child support has now been extended up to age 26. 

Basic child support is intended to cover costs for the children’s shelter, food, clothing and other necessary expenses. Both parties have an obligation to provide for these expenses, but the party paying child support to the other parent is required to pay their share of the basic child support to help ensure that the children have what they need in the custodial parent’s care.

Before a divorce is finalized, courts will review each parent’s financial history to determine how much the monthly support obligation will be. You can expect the court to look into and analyze any of the following information before issuing a ruling:

  • Income tax returns, W2s and other tax information
  • Bank statements
  • Monthly income and employment status
  • Expenses
  • Individual assets and businesses 
  • Child’s special needs
  • Future earnings

The state’s formula relies on combined parental income and the number of children shared between a divorcing couple. For reference, the New York State Child Support Standards Chart is updated annually and helps provide a rough estimate of what you or your spouse may need to pay. Whenever there are concerns, hardships, or mitigating circumstances, your attorney can address these with the judge.

For basic support obligations, the state follows a strict income percentage depending on the total number of children:

  • One child, 17%
  • Two children, 25%
  • Three children, 29%
  • Four children, 31%
  • Five or more children, 35% and up

Child support is a serious expense and will require the paying parent to set aside a substantial percentage of their monthly earnings. As such, courts also recognize that financial situations can change and fluctuate. Whenever you cannot meet your child support obligations, you can file petitions with the court to address your issues. 

Failure to pay child support in New York is a criminal offense punishable by jail time and administrative penalties.

Add-On Child Support Expenses

In addition to basic child support, the parents must allocate and share certain add-on expenses, including childcare while the custodial parent is working, health insurance, unreimbursed healthcare expenses, and possibly educational and extracurricular activities. 

The parents will each pay their pro rata share, or their percentage of the total income, for these add-on expenses. It is important to provide for all add-on expenses that can be negotiated in a divorce agreement to avoid disputes in the future and to ensure that the children’s needs are being met and that they are able to continue enjoying their activities.

Aiello & DiFalco represent clients in divorce and family law matters throughout Long Island and the surrounding areas. If you and your spouse are considering divorce, contact us for a free consultation.

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.