How is the guideline amount of child support calculated in New York?

baby-hands-1391967-mThere is a formula in New York contained in the law, commonly called the Child Support Standards Act, which is designed to provide a presumptive amount that a non-custodial parent should pay for child support.  The policy behind the enactment of the statute was to attempt to provide standard amounts that people that have similar income should pay.  The legislature tried to establish a mechanism, through the guidelines, to estimate how much money individuals would contribute for the children if the family lived together.  As a Long Island family lawyer, mediator, and child support attorney, it is a formula that I have to contend with on a daily basis.

The first step is to start with each parties’ gross income.  That is, what a person makes before taxes or other deductions are taken out.  There can be some add-ons to determine the gross income.  After any add ons are made,  from the gross income, each party is entitled to certain deductions for child support purposes.  Common deductions, for child support purposes, are for FICA taxes (social security and medicare), New York City or Westchester taxes, and child support for other children or maintenance being paid pursuant to a prior court order or written agreement.  There are other, less common, deductions enumerated in the statute.

After the adjusted gross income is determined for child support purposes, each parties’ pro-rata share of the total income should be determined.  What this means is what percentage of the total income each parties’ income makes up.  For an easy example, for illustrative purposes, if the father makes $75,000.00 and the mother makes $25,000.00, the father’s pro-rata share would be 75% and the mother’s pro-rata share would be 25%.

The presumptive amount of child support for the first $141,000.00 (as of 2014, this number changes) of combined parental income is determined as follows.    Multiply the combined parental income, up to $141,000 by:

17% for one child

25% for two children

29% for three children

31% for four children

at least 35% for five or more children

to give you the combined presumptive amount of child support for the first $141,000.00 of combined parental income.  This is not the guideline amount for the non-custodial parent as more calculations need to be performed.

Then, to determine what the non-custodial parent’s presumptive basic child support payment should be, for the first $141,000.00 of combined parental income, multiply the combined child support amount for the first $141,000.00 of combined parental income by the non-custodial parent’s pro-rata share.  The result will be the non-custodial parent’s presumptively correct child support amount for the first $141,000.00 of combined parental income.

Sometimes, the guideline amount for the first $141,000.00 of combined parental income, is all of the basic child support (before any add-ons discussed below) that is ordered by a court.  A court, however, needs to consider what amount of child support should be paid, if any, for the parental income about $141,000.00.    The court is supposed to either order support on this excess income based upon the percentages, or a different amount of support based upon consideration of the following factors according to the Child Support Standards Act including:  everyone’s financial resources (parents and child); overall child’s health, needs, and abilities; the standard of living the child would have had if the relationship stayed intact; tax issues; contributions by parents besides money; if either parent needs more education; large differences in income; the needs of other children that are living with the non-custodial parent in the instant case if those other children’s resources are less than that of the instant case (also as long as public assistance is not involved in the current case); as well as whatever other factor the court deems relevant.

Then a parent’s share of child care (if any), medical, and educational expenses (if any) is added to the income percentage amount. The combined amount, percentage of income plus share of expenses becomes a part of the child support that a court will order.  Please click around this blog and see our website for additional information on family law, divorce, mediation and collaborative law.  Feel free to call about your free initial consultation as well.  As always, we would take pleasure in speaking with you about it.