Financial support of children under 21 is an important part of a divorce or legal separation case in New York. Courts assure that there is sufficient financial support to pay for their necessary living expenses.
Parents can execute a written agreement for a different amount of child support. In these agreements, they acknowledge the agreed-upon payments and the court’s formula for determining payments and set forth their reasons for departing from this formula.
Court can reject these agreements if they find that the child’s needs are not being met. Courts will also require a minimum monthly payment of $25.00 per child even if a parent surrenders the right to receive child support.
A court will usually order the non-custodial parent to pay basic child support obligations to the custodial parent. This obligation is equal to the parents’ combined income less certain deductions multiplied by a specific percentage which depends on the number of children needing support.
This total obligation is divided between parents in proportion to their incomes. The first calculation is on a combined income which is capped at $154,000. A separate calculation is made for incomes over $154,000.
The court applies these percentage guidelines or may use a different formula. A parent’s income includes:
- Wages and salary.
- Unemployment and workers’ compensation.
- Disability and Social Security benefits.
- Veteran’s benefits.
- Annuity payments.
- Pension and retirement benefits.
- Fellowship awards.
Courts may subtract certain deductions from the gross income such as Social Security and FICA contributions, local income taxes, court-ordered child support or maintenance paid to a non-party and public assistance benefits. Individual income is divided into the combined parental income to calculate their share of their combined income.
Courts may order lower amounts if they find that paying the basic support obligation would leave the non-custodial parent below the self-support reserve of $17.226 or if there are other circumstances affecting their ability to pay.
The basic obligation covers food, clothing, housing, and other basics. It does not include medical costs that are not covered by childcare or insurance while the custodial parent is at work or in school. These are added and each parent is responsible for paying for their share of these expenses.
Mandatory add-on expenses include health insurance and unreimbursed health costs. Courts may add education costs and extracurricular activities.
Attorneys can help parents seek an order that meets their children’s needs. They can also protect their rights.