Divorcing couples who share children are often left with many questions. Not only do they need to navigate the difficult conversations concerning with whom the child should live, but they must also understand the expectations of their shared responsibilities. Regardless of custody, both parents have an obligation to ensure that the child’s needs are met emotionally, physically, and financially. This shared responsibility often means that one or both parents will pay or receive child support. For some divorcing couples, the biggest conflict revolves around understanding what those payments may look like.
While no two divorce cases are the same, there are some general rules that apply to child support payments in New York. These may help you anticipate what you may be expected to pay or receive on top of other divorce expenses.
Child support payments are designed to help divorced or separated parents ensure that the needs of their children are met. These needs include food, clothes, educational expenses, healthcare costs, and more. Payments are usually made on a monthly schedule, but that schedule could be modified under a formal legal agreement by both parties or in the final divorce settlement ruling by a judge. The basic calculation for the amount of the payments looks at the income of both parents and what the needs of the child are.
Under the Child Support Standards Act, there is a mathematical formula that is used as the initial step in calculating child support payments, which is based on the number of children involved. The calculation is used with the income of the noncustodial parent. Under the CSSA, potential payments could include:
These calculations are the starting point for payments. However, courts have the discretion to modify these payments upwards should they feel that the needs of the children will exceed the initial amount. When determining income for the initial payments, courts will consider:
Other deductions could be considered, such as:
The final factor when determining child support payments is how much time that each parent will spend with the child and whether any spousal maintenance is offered. If custody is joint and both parents will spend an equal or equitable amount of time with the child, the court may modify the payments to meet the custodial obligations as well. However, just because two parents share equal custody does not mean that they share equal financial obligations.
2023 saw a major change in New York child support laws, which placed a cap on the amount of income allowed to be used in the calculation of payments. Under the change, only the first $163,000 is used. If a parent who is ordered to pay child support exceeds that income, it does not factor into the initial calculation.
While this may seem beneficial to many high-income earners, it is important to remember that this is only for the initial calculation. Remember, courts have the discretion to deviate from that amount based on the circumstances surrounding the case. If, for example, a child has special care needs, then that payment may need to be higher because of the extra costs of proper care. This same discretion can also be applied to the cap if the court feels that it’s necessary to raise the amount of support provided.
If your income changes while paying child support, your payments do not automatically decrease. Any modifications to employment or income that may require a change in payment need to be handled with the help of your attorney through the court system. Until a formal modification is made, you are required to continue paying the amount in your agreement. This process helps protect the support needed for the child.
One parent may feel that it is unfair that they have to pay a specific amount and may choose to voluntarily reduce their income to reduce the amount of support paid. However, courts recognize this tactic and take into consideration the earning capacity of the parent. That means that a court may calculate payments based on what the parent could be earning and not what they are actually earning.
A: It is never advisable to miss child support payments. It is, in fact, illegal and punishable by jail time of up to six months for any parent who willfully neglects to meet their financial obligation. If a parent fails to pay child support for four months or incurs a total equal to that amount, their driver’s license may be suspended as ordered by a court.
A: Child support payments are calculated based on percentages outlined by New York law. The payments are ordered based on the needs of the child and not on the gender of the parent. Both parents have an obligation to financially support the child, and that is done through a combination of custodial care and child support payments as ordered by a court.
A: Child support is initially calculated through a percentage of the income of the noncustodial parent. From this calculation, a court has the discretion to deviate to a higher amount based on any special needs or circumstances that must be considered. Child support payments help pay for daily needs as well as educational expenses, medical expenses, and more.
A: Yes, parents have the right to waive the receipt of child support payments. To do so, you must file a waiver with the court, and both parents must agree. The purpose of the waiver and the filing process is to ensure that both parents understand what the agreement means and that both parties are protected in the process.
Calculating child support payments may seem easy at first, but it can quickly become complicated, depending on the circumstances of your divorce. If you have questions about paying or receiving child support payments, contact Trotto Law Firm, P.C., and let us help you today.
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