The Child Support Standards Act is the relevant statute contained both in the Family Court Act for family court matters and the domestic relations law for divorce matters. It provides the formula and framework for determining the presumptive amount of child support that should be paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent when the parents are no longer living together. Child support consists of several mandatory forms of payment, including basic child support, health insurance for the child (also known as medical support), payment for uncovered medical and health-related expenses, and payment for child care. The amount of basic child support owed is based upon several factors, including the parties’ incomes, the number of children, whether spousal maintenance is also ordered, and whether the noncustodial parent is also paying child support pursuant to court order for other children.
The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance maintains a wonderful website that provides a significant resource for answering questions about child support – http://www.childsupport.ny.gov/dcse/home.html. This state agency also operates the Child Support Enforcement Program and the Support Collection Unit in every county of New York State and New York City.
Often, child support issues can become much more complicated than simply plugging in numbers to the Child Support Standards Act formula. As an example, the Child Support Standards Act establishes a cap of income such that if the parents’ incomes exceed the statutory cap, child support on income over that statutory cap may not be subject to the statutory percentages. Likewise, the Child Support Standards Act formula may not be applied to the income that places the noncustodial parent below the poverty level or the self-support reserve level. In the event the parents have a shared physical custody schedule such that they each have the children for 50% of the time, it is presumed that the Child Support Standards Act formula would apply, but the parents should seek competent legal advice to determine whether they may be eligible for a deviation from the Child Support Standards Act application.
Child support may be modified if the parents have a basis, under the law, for seeking such a modification. The modification standards include the following:
Proof that a parent has experienced a substantial change in the circumstances of his or her life
A period of at least three years has passed since the order was entered or last modified
Either parent’s gross income has changed by 15 percent or more since the order was entered or last modified
Parents may choose to opt out of the last two bullet points and only allow for a modification in the case where there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Deviation from the Child Support Standards Act may result in very harsh results for the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent. Failure to pay child support may result in substantial consequences to the paying parent. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney at every stage of the child support proceedings to preserve and protect your rights, and to strive to reach a support settlement that is fair and appropriate for both parents and the child(ren).
If you would like to schedule a confidential consultation with Ms. Arquette or Ms. Buckley to discuss issues regarding child support, contact our office for a confidential consultation to answer your questions.