Today’s blog is a blend of some of my prior blogs and/or website articles over the years on child support. As a New York divorce lawyer and family law attorney, one of the most common types of cases I deal with involves the issue of child support. Under the law of New York State, both parents responsible for a child are required to support their child financially until that child turns 21 years old. Regardless of whether the parents have been involved in a divorce or not, they remain financially responsible for their child.
In any divorce or child support case that I encounter as a family law professional, I find that it’s important to outline the details that go into determining how much child support is possible. Child support is a very complicated matter, and if it’s something that you’ve never encountered before, you might find yourself getting confused, or overwhelmed. Here, I’ll talk a look at a few things that you might not know about New York child support.
1. Courts Can Make Temporary Child Support Orders
When you’re working with a divorce attorney or child support lawyer, you should find that the court, pursuant to statute, will make an order for temporary child support while a child support or divorce case is ongoing. This temporary order can be based on the guidelines or perhaps decided according to an evaluation of the needs of the child. The law demands that this measure be taken, when properly requested, regardless of whether urgency is apparent.
When a child support order is finalized, the court is supposed make the final order using the guidelines according to the formula for the child support standards act, unless the two parties involved in the case have come to an acceptable agreement which supports the best interests of the child. As detailed below, however, under appropriate circumstances there can be deviations from the guidelines as argued by your child support lawyer.
2. There are Reasons to Deviate from Standard Formulas
In a child support case, the suggested “basic” amount of support for a child can be deviated from as a result of a close evaluation of the finances associated with each parent, and the unique needs shown by the children. If the financial background of the parents involved does not require a re-consideration of the support amount, other elements, such as the emotional or physical health of the child might have a part to play in determining expenses to be paid.
In some circumstances, tax implications may also cause a judge to move away from the basic amount of support typically provided, as could the non-financial support of a mother or father to the wellness of a child.
Although the New York Court will often prefer to stick to the pre-set formula when calculating child support amounts, there are plenty of reasons why they might choose to deviate from this standard when awarding support to a child. For instance, a deviation can be ordered after the court considers the financial circumstances of each parent, and considers that the needs of the child require a different amount to be ordered.
Alternatively, the aptitudes and special needs of a child, as well as their physical or emotional health might lead the court to order a deviation from the standard formula. Additionally, the court will often consider the standard of living that the child would have been exposed to if the parental relationship had remained intact. What’s more, tax implications to both sides can be considered as a reason to deviate from traditional amounts.
3. Child Support has “Basic” and “Added” Components
In New York, child support has “basic” components, and “added” components. The first basic component for child support is calculated according to an examination of the initial “capped” income amount on combined parental income, which at the time of this blog stands at $143,000. The cap on combined parental income is adjusted on a bi-yearly basis and at the time of this blog was last adjusted in January 2016.
The income of a parent will include their investment income, gross total income, and various other benefits including unemployment, compensation and retirement benefits. However, if the two parents have combined parental income of more than $143,000, additional basic child support may be ordered, for the income above the initial cap, according to what is sometimes referred to in the family law world as “paragraph f” factors which is a section of the Child Support Standards Act.
There are a number of factors that go into a determination of how much child support a parent should pay. As mentioned above, basic child support is calculated according to a specific formula. Usually, a non-custodial parent of one child will pay a basic support level of their pro-rata share of 17% of the capped amount for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and no less than 35% for five or more children. They may also be asked to pay an additional amount for income over the initial cap based on the percentages or some other considerations.
If the combined income of the parents is above the cap, after the court has considered “paragraph F” factors, can award child support above that initial cap. Under the Domestic Relations Law, the court may choose to award further expenses, such as the costs for education, as an add-on to basic support. Another common add on is for medical expenses, health care, and child care. Life Insurance to cover the future support obligation of a child might be included as well.
4. Income can be Added or “Imputed”
As a child custody lawyer, I’ve seen courts take numerous factors into account when calculating income for child support, or temporary maintenance or alimony. According to the Family Court Act, and New York Domestic Relations law, if the court feels it is appropriate, they will have the right to “impute”, or add income to people. The statutes for child support list items that can be considered for imputing income.
Sometimes, perks and fringe benefits that a person receives from their profession, such as housing, food, cars, and other advantages used for personal gain, or financial benefit, can be imputed as income by the New York Court. Additionally, services, funds, or benefits received from family and friends can also be added into a calculation for income in regard to child support payments. Courts can add income for what appears to be off the books money that people are receiving. If people are underemployed, courts can impute income based on their training, experience and ability to earn more.
5. Child support can be modified
Prior to when the Child Support Standards Act was changed in 2010 when “No Fault” divorce came into existence in New York, the law was that child support amounts could be changed if there was an unanticipated change of circumstances that made the amount of child support unreasonable. Changes of income alone were not enough. It was harder to modify child support whether someone was requesting an upward or downward modification. The state of the law for orders made now is that either party to a child support can seek to modify the order if:
1. Three or more years have passed;
2. Income for either side has changed by 15% or more; or
3. There has otherwise been a substantial change of circumstances.
Under the current law parties can opt out of the first two reasons to modify child support. There is another way to modify child support which is through timely written objections to the notification of a Cost of Living Adjusted Order issued by the Child Support Collection Unit.
These were a few tibits and there are a lot of different and complicated factors to think about when it comes to child support and child custody in New York. Though I’ve covered some of the most common concerns above, the chances are that if you’re facing your own case, you have specific questions and concerns that you need to address. Contact me via my online form today to schedule your free, initial half-hour appointment, or phone us on (516) 333-6555. I’ll be happy to discuss your needs with you in depth.