The State of New York has very specific laws in place for calculating child support payments. These are set by the Child Support Standards Act within the New York State Domestic Relations Law and the Family Court Act and define who may be required to make child support payments. The net effect of the law is that custodial parents are paid child support by non-custodial parents each month for any qualifying children in their care.
Income plays a major role in calculating child support.
Income is the first criteria used to calculate child support payments, with the child support being calculated as a percentage of gross income. This amount is usually taken from the latest tax return filed. The gross income includes income from all sources, including part-time or full-time employment, self-employment, any business the non-custodial parent owns, workers' compensation, disability payments, unemployment insurance, social security, pensions, and other types of income.
These percentages are currently:
- 17% for one child
- 25% for two children
- 29% for three children
- 31% for four children
- 35% for five or more children
These percentages are applied to the combined gross income of the parties, less the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, up to a cap, which is currently $143,000 in New York. The Court will then choose whether to apply that same percentage to combined income above the cap. If the Court decides to go above or below the cap, it will have to explain why. The final result may also be adjusted based on numerous additional factors—the most important one being the needs of the children. Your legal counsel can argue to adjust the child support based upon these numerous factors.
Oftentimes a spouse makes much more money than is revealed on a tax return. Perhaps they own a business that does not report cash revenues, or which deducts “business expenses,” which are really personal expenses. As a result, obtaining experienced legal counsel is essential for you to advocate for the proper amount of child support to be paid by your spouse, if you are the residential custodial parent.
Good child support lawyers are going to strategize your case starting on day one, asking specific questions about you and your spouse’s occupations, incomes, and family expenses, in order to gain as much knowledge and facts about your case as possible. They will walk you through the entire process, including filing a statement of net worth, as well as negotiate on your behalf. This will make the experience much easier for you than if you didn’t have legal representation. You will also benefit from a lawyer’s years of experience in applying the additional factors considered by Courts when deciding whether to adjust child support higher or lower.
Get a general idea of what you'll be required to pay or receive.
Resources are available to help New Yorkers understand the basic annual child support obligation. The Child Support Standards Chart, which is presented by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance—a division of the state government that focuses on child support services—is a good resource, as is the calculating tool provided by the NYC Human Resources Administration.
Still, parents should remember that the judge may adjust this standard amount based on other factors. Also, the court sometimes deviates from this formula for a variety of reasons.
This is why it's important to contact a legal representative who specializes in divorce and child support. As previously discussed, a reputable lawyer will take the time to carefully evaluate your finances, as well as explain exactly what the court will focus on when determining how much child support will be awarded to the appropriate party.
There are additional expenses often covered by child support.
The non-custodial parent may also be ordered to pay for his or her proportionate share of each of the following:
- Unreimbursed Healthcare Expenses: These include medical insurance premiums, as well as those medical expenses of the children that are not reimbursed by insurance, such as co-pays.
- Education Expenses: The judge may require additional payments for education expenses, such as tuition or tutoring.
- Childcare Expenses: If the custodial parent works or attends school, the non-custodial parent may be required to pay a prorated share of childcare expenses.
- Extracurricular Activity Fees and Expenses: Certain expenses for extracurricular activities may also be factored into the total child support payment.
There are laws in place designed to protect low-income, non-custodial parents.
Though the aforementioned factors are considered for most non-custodial parents, there are laws in place to protect those with a low income. In 2017, if the parent earns less than $12,060, their income is considered Below Poverty Level. In this case, child support payments may be limited at $25, with a $500 limit on payments in arrears.
In addition, the New York State Self-Support Reserve is currently $16,281 per year. If the non-custodial parent's income falls below this amount, the child support order may be only $50.
Child support payments are typically deducted right from a non-custodial parent's source of income.
In most cases, child support payments are deducted directly from the non-custodial parent's paycheck, pension, military allowance, social security, disability, unemployment insurance, and/or other forms of income. In these situations, the payments are generally deducted weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly, depending on the payroll schedule of the non-custodial parent's employer (or other source of income).
If the parent is self-employed or receives income in cash, he or she will be required to make regular payments to the New York State Child Support Processing Unit. These payments may be mailed, paid electronically or paid in-person via certified check, money order or credit card. Walk-in payments may only be paid via credit card.
Payments should not be made with cash, and they may not be deducted from SSI benefits.
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