The New York Family Court processes petitions for child support, establishes new child support orders, and determines whether a modification should be made to an existing child support order. It is possible to also utilize the Supreme Court to establish, enforce or modify child support, particularly in a divorce or postjudgment divorce case. Most child support payments in New York are made by a noncustodial parent paid direct to the other parent or through the Support Collection Unit (SCU).
Once the court has issued a child support order requiring the support collection unit to collect payments, the SCU collects and distributes the payments. If the noncustodial parent falls behind in payments, the SCU can enforce the order. Once a parent applies for services, the support order has to be paid through the SCU, and the custodial parent can no longer accept direct payments from a noncustodial parent or informally agree to change the support order. If the noncustodial parent wants to pay the custodial parent directly, the noncustodial parent should either make sure this is reflected in the initial order or file a modification petition subsequently in order to ask that a direct payment be credited to his or her account.
Once child support is ordered, the parent who is required to pay is given a payment instruction sheet, indicating how much to pay and how to make the payments. For parents who work, a notice may be sent to their employer with instructions about taking the child support payments out of the salary and sending them to the Support Collection Unit or SCU. However, these payments can also be taken directly from other income streams, such as unemployment or even a pension. Payments may not be deducted from a worker’s paycheck for a few weeks from the time of the child support order.
Those who are self-employed can make timely payments directly to the Support Collection Unit by certified check or money order, or electronically. A noncustodial parent should not try to make child support payments to a custodial parent with cash because he or she will not have a record of the payment in the event that a dispute over child support arrearages arises. It’s important to use a method of payment that has a paper or electronic trail that can be used as evidence.
If you have a good relationship with the custodial parent, he or she can send a notarized letter to the SCU asking that you be given credit for a sum you’ve paid directly, but it is better not to have to rely on this in case the noncustodial parent forgets or refuses to send a letter, or the SCU doesn’t accept the letter and requires you to take the matter to court to ask it to order a credit to your account and modify the order. Even if the payments are not sent paid through the Support Collection Unit, it is advisable to get a receipt for any cash payments that identify that the cash payments were for child support. Otherwise, if the payment is disputed later, it might not be possible to prove that payments were made.
In Ford v. Department of Social Services, a father brought an Article 78 proceeding regarding several child support enforcement actions brought against him for $400,000 in child support arrears for an obligation to his daughter that had accumulated over 24 years. The petitioner disputed the claim for many reasons and asked for credit for child support payments. The OCSE cross-moved to dismiss the petition against it.
The petitioner told the OCSE at one point that he would send proof of the payments that hadn’t been credited to his account. He submitted as proof of payment a judicial Findings of Fact, which included testimony that he’d paid $70,000 to satisfy certain arrears and avoid jail, a letter from the other parent that asked him to receive credit for $5,000, and another letter asking that he receive credit of $800 for payments.
The OCSE told the petitioner it wouldn’t credit the claimed $70,000 payment, and it had already credited his account $5,000 in response to a notarized letter from the other parent. The petitioner filed his petition against the OCSE and the other parent, among others, to vacate certain orders and arrears, claiming he’d not received the appropriate credits, and the OCSE had miscalculated what he owed to the custodial parent. This complaint was dismissed.
The OCSE told him his bank account would be restrained, and it would obtain the arrearage amount from a tax refund offset and passport denial process. He asked for administrative review, but he didn’t submit proof that his child support wasn’t accurately computed. His challenge was denied, and he commenced an Article 78 proceeding.
The court explained that the OCSE was authorized by statute to seize the petitioner’s tax refund to enforce the outstanding arrears through an offset to his refund. This automatically triggered the passport denial process. It also explained that the petitioner hadn’t submitted proof supporting his challenge to the OCSE’s decision to put him in the tax refund offset and passport denial process.
Even assuming he received credit for $70,000 of his child support payments, his arrears would be of a magnitude sufficient to restrict his passport and seize his refund. Accordingly, the petition was denied.
If you are trying to modify child custody or child support in New York, 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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