Child Support Bullets Part 4: Deviations and Discretionary Matters in Child Support

Young-Parents-300x207If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you may have noticed that alongside my regular articles and blog posts, I have also been introducing a series of bullet-point guides. These guides are intended to curate some of the more complicated ideas addressed in my other articles, into something that is a little easier to consume in bite-sized chunks.

The current guide series addresses the various issues and concerns that can arise during cases surrounding child support. In previous parts, we have discussed some of the basics about how courts can make decisions on the amount of child support to give, and what kind of factors may affect these decisions. Today, we are going to look a little more about the deviations from the guidelines that may occur in child support orders.

This part of the guide will also discuss the kind of discretionary control that the courts have in making decisions about child support.

What is the Court’s Discretion in Child Support?

In issues of family law, there are often many factors that contribute to the outcome of a case or order. Sometimes, it may feel as though your entire case rests on how a specific judge or support magistrate might feel about you and your family. Working with the appropriate family law attorney or divorce lawyer sometimes can help you to navigate some of the complex nuances of this aspect of law, so you can pursue your best interests. However, it is also worth understanding the discretionary rights that your support magistrate or judge will have to enact or make do guideline child support deviations.

  • Your magistrate or judge in New York Supreme or Family court can decide what the results of your legal proceeding are going to be (at least initially if no appeal is taken). However, these professionals need to follow specific guidelines and rules to ensure that their orders are as fair as possible. Judges and magistrates need to make decisions based on first a consideration of the pre-set formulas for things like child support. The law says that the child support guidelines, which are based on income, produces the correct amount of child support.  Even within the guidelines it is discretionary how much, if any, child support is appropriate for cases where the combined income of the parents exceeds the initial cap (which is $154,000.00 at the time of the writing of this blog). Although it might be challenging to do so, it is also possible to convince the court to use its discretion to your advantage either yourself or with the help of the right attorney.
  • Child support has a formula in the Child Support Standards Act for New York that assists support magistrates and judges in determining a preliminary amount for each case. However, this is still a part of family law that is full of discretional matters. A family lawyer can ask a judge to “deviate” from the guidelines for your case in certain circumstances, and you can argue that the deviation is both fair and necessary.
  • For instance, if the circumstances of a case indicates that a deviation from the standard guidelines is necessary to care for that child, the court may have the ability to deviate. The courts will usually aim to reduce the emotional long-term hardship on a child in a child support or divorce case. When making decisions about child support, courts might consider if it is possible that the standard of living a child has grown accustomed to can be maintained.
  • In some cases, in deciding how much child support is appropriate the court can consider the needs of a father or mother to get additional education. The court may decide that a deviation is necessary from the standard support amount upon consideration of this factor.

When Deviations Occur in Child Support

There are various circumstances wherein the support magistrate or judge of a court may decide to deviate from the standard guidelines suggesting formulas for child support. If the total income for either party, for instance, is much lower than the others, this could be a reason for a deviation. It may also be cause for deviation if the child in the case needs additional medical support, or extra money is required to allow for regular visitation to a non-custodial parent.

  • In New York law, there is a “catch all” provision that allows the court to deviate from the child support guidelines for any reason that they consider to be appropriate and relevant. However, this does not mean that trial courts can simply order deviation without reference to the insights from the appellate court case decisions.
  • Case law in New York helps to determine which reasons may be appropriate for a deviation from the standard guidelines. Even things like shared custody (equal time to both parents) on a physical level might not be enough on its own to allow for deviation from the guidelines of typical support amounts.
  • Parties can work with their family law attorney to request a deviation from the standard guideline amounts for child support. However, there are also circumstances wherein a couple might be able to come to an agreement together on what is fair for child support. It is preferred by the courts if people can come to an agreement.
  • During negotiation or mediation sessions, when couples can negotiate their own child support or divorce terms, they can suggest what they believe is “just” when it comes to things like maintenance, child support, and equitable distribution. After a party to their case or their attorney presents this agreement to the court, the court will ultimately need to sign off on it as courts always retain discretion with matters involving children such as child custody or child support.

Understanding Deviations from Child Support

When the court chooses to deviate from standard child support amounts, this is usually the result of a careful consideration of many different factors. The courts might consider that the child support amount being awarded will not cause significant hardship for either of the parents involved but will also support the child in maintaining a certain quality of life.

  • Courts may deviate from the standard guidelines for child support whenever they determine that it is just and reasonable to do so. The courts of New York are bound to act in the best interests of the child of any family law case, which means considering the physical, emotional, and financial needs of that child carefully.
  • If someone going through a child support case or divorce is not happy with the child support amount ordered by the court, it may be possible to argue for a deviation from the standard formula with the right support from a family lawyer. It is also possible for a party to argue that the formula should not be deviated from in some cases. After all, the child support guidelines are supposed to be the presumptively correct amount of support.
  • To provide the right order for a child support amount, it may be crucial for the court to request specific information about the financial standing of both parties involved. This will help the courts to follow the case law and the guidelines.

If you have any questions about the issues addressed above or would like to discuss child support and family law further, please feel free to reach out to schedule a consultation. You can get in touch by phone or using our contact form and arrange a consultation appointment of up to the first 30 minutes of the initial consultation is free.

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