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Understanding child support in New York

How is child support calculated?

  1. Determine the non-custodian’s net income from all sources of income.
  2. Subtract annual Medicare and Social Security payments from the parent’s net income.
  3. Subtract any New York City or Yonkers taxes paid from the income from step two. The numbers to subtract in steps two and three can usually be found on form W2. If the parent works in New York City or Yonkers, then the amount one must deduct from the net income is usually 10% of the net income.
  4. Subtract any child support the parent already pays to child or children of another parent. Depending on an individual’s circumstances, there may be additional deductions.
  5. Now, use the adjusted gross income and the chart below to calculate how much child support the non-custodial parent owes. The chart shows the percentage of the parent’s income that must be paid to the custodial parent taking into account the number of children covered under that payment. These numbers are calculated on an annual basis. Therefore, divide the total by 12 to determine how much one must pay per month as shown in the example in the right-most column.
Number of children being supported Percentage of net gross income to pay yearly to custodial parent Dollar amount of income to pay monthly based on an adjusted gross salary of $50,000
1 17% $50,000 x .17 = $8,500 per year$8,500 / 12 = $708 per month
2 25% $50,000 x .25 = $12,500 per year$12,500 / 12 = $1,042 per month
3 29% $50,000 x .29 = $14,500 per year$14,500 / 12 = $1,208 per month
4 31% $50,000 x .31 = $15,500 per year$15,500 / 12 = $1,292 per month
5 or more 35%+ $50,000 x .35 = $17,500 per year (or more)$17,500 / 12 = 1,458 per month (or more)

The above chart is only applicable for parents whose combined income is below $141,000 and can be construed as an estimate. The chart changes every few years, so be sure to work with a lawyer who is aware of the changes in child support obligation rates and income levels. A detailed chart, the New York State Child Support Standards Chart, can be found here.

A non-custodial step parent can be required to pay child support under very specific circumstances. Ask a lawyer for details to help you determine if you or your child’s step parent may be required to pay child support.

Can I change my child support order? (Apply for a downward or upward modification)

Yes. If you are paying child support and your income has dropped substantially (more than 15%), then you may apply to have the amount of child support you must pay reduced. This drop, however, must not have been the consequence of your own actions. If you voluntarily cut the hours you work, then you may not be able to file for a downward modification. However, if your employer cuts the hours you work, and thus your salary, then you may apply for a downward modification.

Likewise, it is possible for the parent receiving child support to request an upward modification. There are two reasons one could ask the court for the non-custodial parent to pay more in support—if the costs to take care of the child have gone up or the paying parent’s income has gone up substantially (more than 15%). It is best to work with an experienced attorney in either situation who can represent you at a hearing.

For how long do I have to pay child support? For how long do I collect child support?

In New York State a non-custodial parent must pay child support until the child turns 21 years of age. This age is older than in many states. However, if a child is emancipated before age 21, then child support payments can cease. A child becomes emancipated if he or she gets married, joins the military; or becomes self-sufficient or leaves the parent’s home between ages 17 and 21 and does not listen to his or her parents. To be sure that the child has been legally emancipated, talk to a lawyer. If you think you child is emancipated, but the court does not, and you have stopped paying child support, then you will have fallen into arrears.

If a child is going to attend college, then the court may take that into account when determining how much child support the payor must contribute. The court may set a number on the cost of college, for example, the court may calculate how much it would cost for the child to attend a CUNY  (City University of New York) or SUNY (State University of New York) college. Then, the non-custodial parent will have to pay all or a portion of these expenses. Choosing a comprehensive fee in advance of college is called setting a “cap” and ensures that the non-custodial parent saves an appropriate amount. This add-on is considered when the parents already expected that the child would attend college. To make a capped arrangement to cover college costs, a parent should consult with an attorney who has experience creating agreements in which college expenses will be paid

What about other expenses?

A non-custodial spouses can be ordered to pay a portion of unreimbursed medical, dental and optical care, medical copays, child care expenses and educational expenses. Educational expense may range from after-school activities to parochial or private school tuition.