There are new rules, and new questions, about child support in New York.
Divorce can be stressful for a couple, but when there are children are involved, it often makes the process even more emotional. Some couples agree to keep the divorce process uncontested, which helps to establish child support without a total negotiation meltdown. However, problems can come up when spouses don’t understand how the law works when minor children are in the picture. In this post, we offer answers to some common child support issues that come up in our office in response to updated information from the New York Court system released on April 28, 2014.
First of all, what is child support? Child support is money that a non-custodial parent must pay to a custodial parent to help support the couple’s child or children. This monetary support is intended to cover necessities like food, shelter and clothing. Other expenses, such as un-reimbursed healthcare, are not part of child support and are paid to the custodial parent separate from the established child support payment.
How is child support determined? The amount of child support and child care paid is determined by both parents’ incomes. The Court determines this figure by reviewing both incomes and the number of children who will receive support. The Court then uses a formula if the combined income of both parents is at or below $141,000, according to the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) as of January 31, 2014.
In addition, un-reimbursed expenses like medical co-pays may be either split evenly between the parties or paid pro-rata by each parent. In the latter case, a percentage will be established based upon each party’s respective incomes. There are other factors that can affect child support figures such as a child with special needs, or one parent whose gross income is substantially higher than the other parent’s. Having a family law attorney in New York with knowledge of these support calculations and special considerations can help a parent navigate this delicate process.
How long I will have to pay child support? In most cases, the parent pays child support until the child reaches 21. Sometimes, the parties can reach an agreement to pay child support until 22 years of age, so long as the child is attending a college or university full-time. But that is by agreement only – the law does not require a parent pay for a child’s college education or pay for child support even if the child is attending college after the age of 21.
However, there are factors that can cause the termination of child support before the child reaches 21. These can include the child living independently if he or she is working full-time after age 18, or is entering military service. It is important for the non-custodial parent to notify the Family Court of any changes that could suspend or end child support payments. And in New York, the non-custodial parent must file a petition to terminate child support payments even after the child reaches 21 years of age – otherwise, those payments will continue to accrue.
How much child support they I have to pay, and what if I can’t pay it? There are some factors that can help lower the amount of money paid for child support. One example is prior Court orders for child support for other children of the non-custodial parent.
And if a non-custodial parent loses a job or experiences a certain reduction in pay, he or she can file a petition for a “downward modification” with the Court – this reduces child support payments. But remember that even if the other parent agrees to lower payments, the Court must ratify the agreement. Otherwise, child support will continue to accrue despite the parties’ agreement with each other.
Parents will often have many questions about child support throughout the entire divorce process. This a good thing! Parents should gather their questions about calculating child support payments, late payments, and other issues, and review them with a family law lawyer in order to finalize a satisfactory agreement that is fair to both parties in an uncontested divorce, or have a greater understanding of likely outcome in a contested case.