Q: How is child support determined?
ANSWER: New York State provides a formula for calculating the amount of child support to be paid by a parent, as set forth in Domestic Relations Law Section 240(1-b). This is a very detailed statute that must be read and interpreted carefully to calculate the precise amount of child support to be paid. Generally, after appropriate deductions are taken from gross earnings, a percentage factor is applied to the earnings to calculate a parent’s basic child support obligation. The percentages vary depending upon the number of dependent (unemancipated) children under the age of 21:
17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and 35% for five or more children;
I caution you that the statute must be followed carefully to determine the precise amount of child support since there are many factors and conditions set forth in the statute that will affect the calculation.
Q: Who pays child support?
ANSWER: Child support is calculated on the incomes of both parents and generally, the parent who does not have primary residential custody pays his/her share of child support to the other parent.
Q: Will I be able to pay less money in child support than the child support statute requires?
ANSWER: Your best hope for accomplishing this goal is to negotiate a reduction with the other parent as part of an overall settlement. However, you should note that the other parent is under no obligation to do so. The Court rarely finds that sufficient facts exist to not have the formula amount apply. However, where a parent earns over roughly $130,000.00 a year, the Court may consider certain enumerated factors, reducing the percentage of child support on income over this amount.
Q: What if I have the children a good deal of the time or even 50% of the time?
ANSWER: Again, if you are not able to negotiate a reduction from the statutory formula amount with the other parent, you will have a very difficult time convincing a Court not to apply the formula. To demonstrate this point, even if the parents share time with the children equally but cannot agree on the issue of child support, there is case law holding that the parent with the greater income will be deemed the “non-custodial” parent for purposes of child support and that parent will be required to pay child support consistent with the statutory formula!! This illustrates why capable negotiation is always preferable to having the Court resolve your dispute.
Q: Until what age must a parent support a child?
ANSWER: In New York State, a child has the right to support until he/she reaches age 21 or is emancipated earlier. If a child opts not to attend college, but rather joins the military or enters the work force full time, then child support will cease when that event occurs after their 18th birthdate.
Q: Will a child be entitled to continued support if he/she remains in college after their 21st birthday to complete studies to obtain either a bachelor’s or graduate degree?
ANSWER: No. If support is to be paid after a child’s 21st birthday it will only be as a result of an agreement between parents. The law does not require continued support after age 21, regardless of whether the child’s college education has been completed. The same usually holds true even if the child is disabled.