All parents in New York have an obligation to support their children financially. The best way to ensure that your children have the financial resources they need is to work with an experienced family law lawyer who understands the child support laws in New York.
What is child support?
Child support is the financial support one parent is required to pay to the other parent to cover their children’s expenses, including:
- Living expenses (e.g. housing, clothing, food)
- Healthcare expenses/health insurance
- Educational expenses
- Childcare expenses
The non-custodial parent typically pays the custodial parent. If the parents have equal physical custody (50/50 parenting time), the parent who earns more is considered the non-custodial parent and they will pay child support to the parent who earns less.
The support payment must be paid until a child reaches the age of 21, or until they are legally emancipated according to the laws of New York. Sometimes parties agree to continue paying child support until the child turns 22 or graduates from college, but the court cannot force a party to pay past the age of 21.
We regularly handle matters related to child support, including:
- Establishing orders
- Enforcing orders
- Modifying orders
While issues can and should be settled through negotiations, we are prepared to litigate in your divorce or family court proceeding to achieve the best possible outcome.
Child support guidelines in New York
The amount for payments is calculated based on the state’s guidelines. The courts determine the amount based on a percentage of the parents’ total gross incomes minus certain deductions that depend on the number of children who are entitled to support. Gross income includes all sources of income: wages, bonuses, overtime compensation, commissions, self-employment income, and all other forms of income.
The court must direct the parents to pay child support up to a cap (currently $163,000) unless it finds that doing so would be unjust or inappropriate.
The child support percentages based on the number of children are:
- One child — 17 percent
- Two children — 25 percent
- Three children — 29 percent
- Four children — 31 percent
- Five or more children — No less than 35 percent
If the combined income of both parents exceeds the cap, the courts may rely on certain factors and guidelines to award additional child support based on the parties’ income above the cap.
Depending on the circumstances, the courts may choose to use the formula for the first $163,000 and then determine the remainder based on several factors, including:
- The financial resources of each parent
- The child’s standard of living during the marriage
- The child’s physical and emotional health, including any special needs
- The tax consequences for each parent
- Non-monetary contributions each parent makes for the care of the child
- The needs of any other children of the non-custodial parent.
- Any other factor(s) the court deems appropriate
Child support cases can be complicated
Although there are well-defined guidelines, child support can become a sticking point in a divorce if the parents disagree about their income or the amount of support needed. Calculating monthly payments can also become complicated if a parent attempts to conceal their income or their income is not clear, for example, a small business owner who has many deductions or reports losses.
There are complex cases, especially in New York City and Long Island, where the combined parental income exceeds the statutory cap. There are also cases involving 50/50 custody and other shared custody arrangements with two working parents, where a deviation or adjustment to child support may be necessary.
The best way to protect your rights and the well-being of your children is to have an experienced attorney at your side.
Unless the parties have opted out of the statutory provisions in an agreement, either parent can ask the court to modify a child support order if (1) three years have passed since the order was originally issued, or (2) there has been a change in income by 15% or more, such as:
- The paying parent has involuntarily lost their job
- There is a significant increase in the paying parent’s income
- Either parent has become permanently disabled
- The child’s medical needs have increased
If you are looking to make a modification to your agreement, our attorneys can help to prepare and file the required petition, represent you in court, and make sure your rights are protected.
If the paying parent fails to make the required child support payments without a valid reason, the court may enforce the order by:
- Ordering payments to be deducted from his or her paycheck (wage garnishment)
- Placing a lien on personal property (e.g. a home or car)
- Seizing bank accounts
A parent who knowingly or willfully fails to pay may also be held in contempt and face jail time. The courts are typically reluctant to take this step because the paying parent will not be able to earn the income to pay the child support if they are incarcerated.
Contact our experienced New York and Long Island child support attorneys
Please contact us if you are seeking to establish or modify or enforce a child support order. We will guide you through this challenging time to find the best solution for you and your children. We look forward to speaking with you.