Thursday, July 22, 2010

Child Support Basics

In New York, child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for the support, maintenance and education of the children. The requirement to pay child support even applies where the parents equally share custody of the children. Under New York’s Child Support Standards Act (“CSSA”), courts are required to issue fair, adequate and standardized child support awards. This means that a non-custodial parent must pay his or her pro rata share of the “basic child support obligation.” In arriving at the basic child support obligation, a court must calculate the combined parental income up to $130,000 and multiply it by a percentage based on the number of children:

  • 17% for one child
  • 25% for two children
  • 29% for three children
  • 31% for four children
  • at least 35% for five or more children

The basic child support obligation is then divided proportionately between the parents, based on their respective incomes. Where the parties’ combined income exceeds $130,000 per year, the court must determine child support for the excess amount through consideration of ten discretionary factors and/or the child support percentage.

The court can deviate from the standardized award when it finds the support established in a particular case is inappropriate or unjust based on considerations such as the financial resources of the parents, the child’s physical or emotional health, or special needs. Parents can voluntarily waive the provisions of the CSSA as long as the waiver is in writing, recites that they have been advised that the basic child support obligation would presumptively result in the correct amount of child support, specifies the amount that the basic child support obligation, and gives the reason or reasons that it does not provide for payment of that amount.

In addition to basic child support, child care, education and unreimbursed health care costs are also divided between the parents in proportion to their incomes. Typically, the parent with the most comprehensive insurance coverage is required to enroll a child in his or her health plan if the insurance is reasonable in cost. Where private health insurance coverage is unavailable, the court must order the parents to seek coverage through New York’s Child Health Plus program or Medicaid.

The responsibility to pay child support is limited to children under the age of 21. Child support may be suspended or terminated before then, if the child is emancipated by becoming economically independent through employment, by marriage or entry into the military service.