What does Child Support cover?

Child support is a legal obligation to ensure that both parents contribute financially to their children’s needs.  Child support is paid by one parent to the other parent to cover primarily the  children’s food, clothing, and shelter.   The parent who has the children residing with them most of the time will be the recipient of the child support.  In instances where the children spend an equal amount of time with both parents, the higher income parent will pay child support to the lower income parent, unless the parties agree to waive child support and instead share the children’s expenses as mutually determined.

Child support typically does not cover the children’s health insurance costs not covered by insurance; childcare,  the children’s extracurricular activities; and education.  These are expenses that are in addition to child support and parents can decide to split these expenses equally or pay in proportion to their respective incomes or other agreed upon percentage.

How is child support calculated in New York?

The Child Support Standards Act in the law in New York that sets forth a 3-step formula to calculate what will result in the basic child support obligation. 

First step

The first step is to determine each parents’ respective gross incomes.   Income includes employment income, self-employment income, pensions, disability payments, unemployment payments and investment income.  Income can also be imputed to a parent who is either not working or voluntarily decides to take a lower paying job that does not reflect their prior experience and work history. 

There are certain deductions from the gross income allowed under the law.   Deductions include social security and Medicare payments, child support paid for other children and NYC taxes.  Once the deductions are subtracted from the gross incomes of each parent, what is left is the adjusted gross income for child support purposes. 

Second Step

The child support law applies a percentage to be paid depending on the number of children you have:

1 child- 17%

2 children 25%

3 children -29%

4 children- 31%

5 or more children – 35%

Third step

The last step is to add the adjusted gross income of each parent.  The basic child support obligation sets child support law sets a cap on combined incomes.  Currently the cap is $183,000.  The cap changes every few years. The percentage based on the number of children is multiplied by the parents’ combined incomes up to the statutory cap.  For example, if  one parent has income of $100,000 and the other parent has income of $60,000,  the combined incomes of the parents is $160,000.  If they have two children, you multiply the combined income by 25%:   $160,000 x .25%= $40,000.   Each parent pays their proportionate share.  The  proportionate share of the parent who earns $100,000 is 62.5% and the proportionate share of the parent who earns $60,000 is 37.5%. If the children live primarily with the parent who earns $60,000, the higher income parent will pay 62.5% of $40,000 or $25,000 annually. 

This amount is considered the basic child support obligation.  However, in mediation or the collaborative process, parents can agree to go below this amount, above this amount, or agree to waive child support if the parents agree to split  equally or in whatever amount is the parents mutually agree to.    The amount of child support can vary depending on the financial needs of each parent and the children.  

How long does child support have to be paid?

In New York, child support is typically paid until a child turns 21 years of age.  Parents can agree that child support can continue until a child is 22 years of age and is attending  college full time.  Child support can also end sooner, if a child marries, joins the military, or obtains a job that allows the child to be self-supporting.  

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