New York Child Support

by ECL Writer
New York Child Support

In the bustling metropolis of New York, the well-being of every child is of paramount importance, and the state’s robust child support system plays a crucial role in ensuring their welfare. As one of the most populous and diverse states in the U.S., New York has implemented a comprehensive set of laws and regulations to address the financial needs of children in separated or divorced families. From guidelines for calculating support payments to enforcement mechanisms, navigating the intricacies of New York’s child support system can be both complex and vital for parents and guardians alike.

In this article, delve into the intricacies of New York’s child support landscape, exploring the key components that shape the financial support framework and its impact on the lives of families across the state.

Who Pays Child Support in New York?

In New York, the obligation for both parents to financially support their children is a fundamental principle, even in cases of shared physical custody. The legal framework assumes that the custodial parent, who typically has the child the majority of the time, is already fulfilling their financial responsibility by directly spending on the child’s needs. As a result, the noncustodial parent, who spends less time with the child, is usually required to make child support payments.

In situations where parents share physical custody more equally, and neither is the clear primary custodial parent, New York courts have established a precedent to determine the noncustodial parent for child support purposes. According to the ruling in Rapp v. Horbett (174 A.D.3d 1315, N.Y. App. Div. 2019), the parent with the higher income will be considered the noncustodial parent. This decision ensures that the financial responsibility for child support aligns with the parent’s financial capacity, even when physical custody is shared more evenly.

It’s important to note that these legal considerations aim to prioritize the best interests of the child, ensuring that they receive adequate financial support regardless of the custody arrangement. The court’s determination of the noncustodial parent in cases of shared physical custody reflects a commitment to fair and equitable child support arrangements in New York.

How Much Is Child Support Under New York’s Guidelines?

Child support in New York is determined by guidelines that establish a formula based on a percentage of parental income, with variations depending on the number of children being supported. The guidelines are as follows:

  • One child: 17%
  • Two children: 25%
  • Three children: 29%
  • Four children: 31%
  • Five or more children: At least 35%

These percentages serve as a foundation for calculating the child support amount, and it’s important to note that the state regularly updates the Child Support Standards Chart. This chart provides a detailed breakdown of approximate support amounts at various income levels, reflecting the dynamic nature of these calculations.

To obtain an estimate tailored to your circumstances, you can utilize the official New York child support calculator. This tool helps you fill out the child support worksheet, a necessary step when requesting child support. Keep in mind that the calculated amount may be subject to change based on updates to the guidelines.

When seeking child support, it’s crucial to follow the proper procedures and submit the child support worksheet as part of your request. Staying informed about the most recent guidelines and using the official calculator can help you navigate the process and ensure that the support amount is accurately determined based on the current regulations.

New York’s Child Support Cap for Higher Earners

In New York, when both parents’ combined income exceeds a certain threshold, judges have discretion in determining child support amounts. This discretion allows them to choose between two approaches:

  1. Percentage-Based Calculation:
    • If the combined income falls below a specified cap (which is $163,000 as of 2023), the judge may opt for a percentage-based calculation, similar to cases where income levels are below the cap.
    • Under this method, the child support amount is determined using established percentages of the combined income, as per the state guidelines.
  2. Judicial Discretion:
    • When the combined parental income surpasses the cap, judges can exercise their discretion to establish a fair and reasonable child support amount.
    • This involves considering various factors similar to those used when deviating from the guidelines in other cases.

It’s important to note that the cap on combined parental income is subject to change every two years, typically in even-numbered years. In this context, the cap was set at $163,000 as of 2023.

Additionally, New York law allows parents to mutually agree on child support amounts that exceed the guideline. This provides flexibility for parents to reach agreements that they believe are fair and suitable for their specific circumstances.

In summary, the law in New York empowers judges to make decisions based on the unique circumstances of cases where combined parental income exceeds the specified cap, allowing for a more individualized and just determination of child support amounts.

New York’s Self-Support Reserve for Low-Earning Noncustodial Parents

The requirement that noncustodial parents have enough income to support themselves is also taken into consideration by New York law. The support guidelines therefore include a “self-support reserve.” A judge will typically set a fixed amount of support below the guidelines figures if a parent’s income is less than the reserve amount ($19,683 for 2023). In 2023, N.Y. Dom. Rel. § 240(1-b)(d).

How to Calculate Child Support Payments

There are a few procedures you must follow to estimate child support payments in New York. These steps are outlined below, but the child support worksheet also contains instructions.

Calculate Each Parent’s Adjusted Gross Income

To calculate each parent’s adjusted gross income (AGI) for child support purposes, follow these steps:

  1. Determine Gross Income:
    • Add up all income from all sources, including:
      • Total income reported on the most recent federal income tax return.
      • Investment income (minus any amount spent in connection with the investments).
      • Unemployment, workers’ compensation, or disability benefits.
      • Social security and veterans’ benefits.
      • Annuity payments.
      • Pension and retirement benefits.
      • Alimony received (or to be received) from the other parent involved in the current child support case.
  2. Consider Self-Employed Individuals:
    • Include costs that self-employed people may deduct from their income for federal income tax purposes (such as travel and entertainment expenses) as part of gross income for child support calculations.
  3. Calculate Gross Income for Each Parent:
    • For each parent, sum up all the sources of income determined in Step 1.
  4. Deduct from Gross Income:
    • Alimony paid to a previous spouse (not involved in the current child support request), under a court order or a signed, written agreement.
    • Child support paid for a child from a previous relationship under an order or agreement.
    • Alimony being paid under an order or agreement (or will be paid after the divorce) to the other parent in the current child support case.
    • Unreimbursed employee business expenses (unless they reduce a parent’s living expenses).
    • Public assistance.
    • Supplemental security income (SSI).
    • FICA (Medicare and Social Security) taxes paid.
    • New York City or Yonkers income taxes paid.
  5. Calculate Adjusted Gross Income (AGI):
    • Subtract the deductions from the gross income for each parent to obtain their adjusted gross income.

It’s important to note that the specific rules and considerations may vary by jurisdiction, so it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional or use a child support calculator provided by the relevant jurisdiction to ensure accurate calculations based on current laws and regulations.

(N.Y. Dom. Rel. § 240(1-b)(b)(5) (2023).)

Combine the Parents’ Adjusted Gross Incomes

The AGI figures of both parents must be added together when calculating child support because both parents are obligated to provide for their children. Each parent would have a basic child support obligation based on their share of the combined AGI.

Apply the Combined AGI to the New York Child Support Standards Chart

Assume, for instance, that the noncustodial parent earns $45,000 annually and the custodial parent earns $30,000, for a combined AGI of $75,000. The basic child support obligation, based on 2023 figures, would be $12,750 ($75,000 x.17).

The noncustodial parent would pay 60% of the total basic child support obligation, or $7,650 annually ($637.50 per month) since their share of the combined AGI is 60%.

Modifications for Extra Costs

In New York, judges not only establish basic child support but also mandate noncustodial parents to contribute to specific additional expenses based on their share of combined Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). These extra financial responsibilities include health-related costs, covering health insurance benefits and unreimbursed healthcare expenses for the child. Additionally, noncustodial parents may be required to contribute to childcare expenses when the custodial parent is employed or pursuing education, with the allocation based on AGI shares.

Judges also have the authority to order noncustodial parents to financially support the child’s education, encompassing special education, private school, or post-secondary education. This contribution is determined considering each parent’s financial capacity and their respective shares of the combined AGI. The legal framework for these obligations is outlined in New York Domestic Relations Law Section 240(1-b)(c) as of 2023. Overall, these provisions aim to ensure the comprehensive well-being and development of the child, distributing financial responsibilities equitably between both parents.

Imputing Income for Child Support

Child support plays a crucial role in ensuring the financial well-being of children whose parents are no longer together. Unfortunately, some parents may attempt to evade their financial responsibilities by intentionally reducing their income. In such cases, the legal system has mechanisms in place to address this issue, including the imputation of income. This legal concept is exemplified in the case of Horn v. Horn, 145 A.D.3d 666 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016), where a judge may determine the appropriate income for a parent based on various criteria.

Factors Considered in Imputing Income:

When imputing income for child support calculations, judges take into account several factors to arrive at a fair and reasonable amount. These factors include:

  1. Past Income and Demonstrated Future Potential Earnings:
    • The judge examines the parent’s historical income as well as their potential future earnings based on skills, education, and employment history.
  2. Skills and Education:
    • The parent’s skills and level of education are considered in determining the income that could reasonably be expected.
  3. Employment History:
    • A thorough evaluation of the parent’s work history helps the judge assess their capacity for earning and contributing to child support.
  4. Financial Resources:
    • The overall financial situation of the parent, including available resources, is taken into consideration.

Legitimate Reasons for Deviations:

While imputing income is a powerful tool to address intentional income reduction, the legal system acknowledges that there can be legitimate reasons for a parent’s income to be lower than expected. Examples include:

  1. Permanent Disability:
    • If a parent becomes permanently disabled, adjustments may be made to account for the impact on their earning capacity.
  2. Childcare Considerations:
    • Parents who choose to stay at home to care for their children may be deemed justified, especially when the cost of childcare outweighs the potential income based on their skill set.

Judicial Discretion and Additional Income Sources:

New York law provides judges with the discretion to attribute income from various sources, ensuring a comprehensive assessment of a parent’s financial capability. These additional sources include:

  1. Non-Income-Producing Assets:
    • Assets that do not generate income may still be considered when imputing income.
  2. Employment-Related Benefits:
    • Fringe benefits, such as meals, lodging, memberships, or company-provided vehicles, may contribute to the imputed income.
  3. Assistance from Relatives and Friends:
    • Money, goods, or services received from relatives or friends may be factored into the determination of imputed income.

Deviating From New York’s Child Support Guidelines

In cases where a judge determines that the standard child support obligation calculated under the guidelines would be deemed “unjust or inappropriate,” the judge has the authority to order a different amount, taking into account various relevant circumstances. These considerations are outlined under New York Domestic Relations Law § 240 (1-b)(f) (2023). The judge must thoroughly examine the following factors before making a decision:

  • Financial Resources of Parents and Child: The judge should assess the financial capabilities of both parents and consider the financial needs of the child.
  • Child’s Physical and Emotional Health, Special Needs, and Aptitudes: The physical and emotional well-being of the child, including any special needs or talents, must be taken into account.
  • Standard of Living the Child Would Have Enjoyed if Parents Stayed Together: The judge should consider the standard of living the child would have experienced if the parents had remained together.
  • Tax Consequences of Child Support: The tax implications of child support payments should be considered to ensure a fair and equitable outcome.
  • Non-Monetary Contributions Toward the Child’s Care and Well-Being: Contributions that do not involve direct financial support, such as caregiving or educational involvement, should be recognized.
  • Parents’ Educational Needs: The educational needs of the parents should be considered in light of their ability to contribute to child support.
  • Significant Disparity in Earnings: If there is a substantial difference in the income of the parents, this should be taken into account.
  • Support for Other Children: While there are restrictions on when this can be considered, the judge may take into account the needs of other children that the noncustodial parent is supporting.
  • Extraordinary Expenses for Visitation: The judge may consider extraordinary expenses incurred by the noncustodial parent for visitation, such as out-of-state travel or extended visits, provided that the custodial parent’s expenses are substantially reduced by the visitation and the child is not on public assistance.

These factors guide the judge in determining a fair and appropriate child support amount, acknowledging the unique circumstances of each case. Additionally, these considerations are also applied when assessing whether it is fair to award an amount higher than the guideline when parents earn over the specified cap.

Requirements for Child Support Agreements

Child support payments can always be agreed upon by parents, possibly as part of a larger divorce settlement agreement. However, the agreement must be reviewed by the judge, who will only sign it if it complies with the guidelines or meets the requirements to depart from them.

How to Apply for Child Support in New York

When seeking child support services outside of a divorce case in New York, you can follow these steps:

  1. Complete an Application for Child Support Services: Fill out the necessary forms provided by New York’s Child Support Program. This application will gather essential information about both parents and the child in question.
  2. Contact Your Local Child Support Office: If you have any questions or need assistance with the application process, reach out to your local child support office. They can provide guidance and address any concerns you may have.
  3. Understand the Annual Fee: Keep in mind that custodial parents may be charged an annual fee for services from the Child Support Program. This fee, as of 2023, is $35. However, it applies only if the following conditions are met:
    • The custodial parent has never received assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF).
    • Child support is being paid to the family.
    • More than $550 of support is collected and paid to the family during the federal fiscal year (October 1–September 30).
  4. Monitor Support Collections: Be aware of the support collected and paid to the family throughout the fiscal year. If the total exceeds $550, the annual fee may apply.

It’s important to stay informed about the child support process and meet any requirements to ensure a smooth experience. If you encounter challenges or have specific questions about your case, the local child support office is there to assist you.

How to Change the Amount of Child Support in New York

In New York, a child support order modification can be requested by either parent. There are three reasons allowed by state law to ask for a modification in the amount of child support you receive or pay:

  • something has changed significantly in the situation.
  • The order was last entered, changed, or adjusted three years ago (this only applies to orders made on or after October 13, 2010), or
  • Since the order was entered, last modified, or adjusted, there has been a 15% or greater change in either parent’s gross income (this applies only to orders made on or after October 13, 2010).

When Does Child Support End in New York?

Unless they are self-supporting, married, in the military, or otherwise legally emancipated, children in New York State are entitled to parental support until the age of 21 (N.Y. Dom. Rel. § 240(1-b)(b)(2) (2023).)

If a child, between the ages of 17 and 21, leaves their parents’ house and disobeys their reasonable instructions, the child may be deemed to have been granted freedom.

You should be aware that you will continue to be liable for any past-due support (also referred to as “arrearages”) even after your duty to pay child support ceases.

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