New York Child Support Add-On For College Costs

A noncustodial parent is required to pay child support to a custodial parent in New York until a child is 21 years old. In many cases, this means that support continues to be paid while a child is in college.

Basic child support is calculated based on a formula using initially the first $143,000 (as of 2016, this number changes over time) of both parents’ combined income and a discretionary amount or an amount based on the same formula for income that exceeds $143,000.00. For a noncustodial parent of one child, basic support is their pro-rata share of 17% of that $143,000, a “cap” that changes every two years in addition to any amount ordered above that cap as mentioned above. The percentage changes based on the number of children. However, a child can also receive add-on support if his or her parents’ combined income is beyond that cap, after the court looks at what are called “paragraph f” factors. Under Domestic Relations Law 240 1-b(c)(7), the court can award educational expenses, such as college costs, as an add-on to the basic support.

This type of support is not mandatory, however. When deciding whether to make the award, the court may consider the parents’ financial circumstances, their educational backgrounds, the parents’ history of paying for these types of expenses to the child at issue or other children, and the child’s academic qualifications. However, college expenses usually aren’t awarded before ascertaining whether a particular child will actually attend college.

In the 2015 case of RS v. BL, the court considered various financial issues in the divorce of a high-income husband and wife with two sons. The court explained that since the mother’s adjusted gross income was $378,000 and the father’s was $1,885,959, the combined parental income for the purposes of child support was over $2 million—far over the cap. The father had a prorated responsibility of 83% for child support, while the wife had 17%. The child support percentage until one of the children was emancipated was 25%, or yearly support by the father of $29,257.50, unless the court found this would be unfair or inappropriate based on the paragraph f factors. The court had to determine whether to make an award based on the amount that exceeded the $141,000 cap (which was the cap at the time relevant to this case) and if so, whether to simply use the formula or rely on the paragraph f factors.

The court determined that it would be appropriate to provide an award over the cap because if the parents had stayed together, the children would have enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle. However, the court also decided not to make the award based on the total combined income. Instead, it applied the formula to a shared total income of $350,000, or a child support obligation of $87,500.

The court also reasoned that it would be appropriate under Section 240(1-b)(c)(7) of the DRL to award educational expenses, including college expenses, considering the circumstances, the best interests of the children, and the interests of justice. Factors to be considered in deciding whether to have a non-custodial parent contribute to college costs included the educational histories of the parents, their financial capacity to pay, the child’s academic achievements and capacity, and the type of college appropriate for the child.

The court reasoned that the couple had contemplated they would pay for their children’s college education throughout their marriage. However, the wife had dissipated some of the funds that were saved for their education, and other funds were going to be split with 65% to the husband and 35% to the wife. Accordingly, the husband was required to provide 65% and the wife was to provide 35% of the tuition, room and board, books, computers, and transportation costs of each child under 21 who was going to college.

The court also required the couple to share these expenses in the same way up to a cap of $25,000. Any amount more than that would be divided equally between the parties. The court also allowed the husband to deduct from the basic child support any portion of room and board college costs for a child under 21.  This is commonly known as a dollar for dollar credit against child support.

If you and your co-parent have a high combined income, you should consult a New York attorney about child support. Contact the Law and Mediation Office of Darren M. Shapiro at 516-333-6555 or via our online form. Our principal Darren Shapiro is an experienced, compassionate family law attorney and mediator.

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