Child support refers to court-ordered payments made from one parent to another, for the benefit of their child or children. Each state has its own child support laws to determine the amount of support based on custody, as well as the income and finances of each parent. Generally speaking, the parent who does not have primary physical custody of the child or lives with the child less than half of the time, is ordered to make child support payments. 

These payments are intended to provide for the child, even when they do not live with both parents. Additionally, both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children. Child support is necessary in order to ensure that both parents are fulfilling their financial obligations to the child.

Mandatory child support is how courts ensure that non-custodial parents are contributing to the needs of their children. The parent required to pay cannot renounce that obligation, and the parent with physical custody of the children cannot refuse to accept the child support payments the court has ordered for the child. 

As previously mentioned, each state has its own guidelines used to calculate the specific amount of child support payment in each case. The court will determine how much the support payments will be based on the specific circumstances of the parents. As such, the state’s guidelines will provide the court with an acceptable range of amounts, and the judge can order an amount within that range. It is important to note that some states give judges a lot of discretion in terms of determining the final amount, while other states require the court to adhere to considerably strict guidelines.

Regardless of state guidelines and specific circumstances, there are some general factors that must be taken into account when calculating final child support obligation. Those factors commonly include:

  • The specific needs of the child, such as their healthcare needs and medical expenses;
  • The number of children the parent will be responsible for supporting financially; 
  • The custodial parent’s income compared to that of the non custodial parent;
  • The ability of the non-custodial parent to make child support payments; and
  • In cases involving divorce, the court may consider the child’s standard of living prior to the divorce or separation.

As part of the calculation process, each parent must submit their financial information to the court, outlining all monthly income and expenses. In order to determine the amount that will be owed each month, the court uses the following:

  • The previously mentioned financial information;
  • The amount of time each parent spends with the child, pursuant to any custody arrangement and visitation schedule; and
  • A child support calculator.

The NYC child support calculator determines that a percentage of up to $80,000 of the total combined income of both parents is a suitable amount of child support. The child support formula in New York is outlined below. It is important to note the child support calculator should be used to get an idea of how much a noncustodial parent could owe in child support in New York State. The amount provided is only an estimate which is adjusted in order to reduce the gross income by Medicare, Federal Insurance Contributions Act (“FICA”) and local NYC taxes.

1. Calculate the Total Combined Income of Both Parents

As orders are paid weekly, biweekly, monthly, or bimonthly, the estimated annual support amount must be divided by the applicable frequency in terms of the way in which the noncustodial parent is paid. In order to calculate the total combined income of both parents, New York courts add together the total gross income of both parents. This must be from all sources, and is based on the previous year’s tax returns. 

2. Subtract Any Applicable Deductions from the Total Combined Income

Next, the court will subtract any applicable deductions from the total combined income. This is done in order to determine the adjusted income amount. Some examples of applicable deductions that can be subtracted from the total income include, but may not be limited to:

  • Unreimbursed employee business expenses;
  • Alimony or child support paid to another former spouse, who is not party to the current court action;
  • Public assistance disbursements;
  • SSI payments;
  • City income taxes; and
  • FICA taxes.

3. Determine the Percentage of Income to Be Paid as Child Support Based on Number of Children

Once the first two steps in the process have been completed, child support is calculated as a simple percentage of the adjusted income amount. This is based on the number of children being supported.

If only one child is being supported, 17% will be paid. From there, payments are as follows:

  • For two children, pay 25%;
  • For three children, pay 29%;
  • For four children, pay 31%; and
  • For five or more children, no less than 35% of the parents’ combined total income must be dedicated to child support payments.

It is important to note that if the total income of both parents equals more than $80,000, the New York court has discretion to apply the same system. Generally speaking, they will do so.

4. Determine Each Parent’s Pro Rata Share of Child Support

The court will then assign a pro rata share of child support. The term “pro rata” simply means in equal proportions; or, in proportion. Each parent must pay this portion based on the amount of money that each parent contributes to the total income. This amount is equal to the individual parent’s total income, divided by the combined income of both parents.

Additional Expenses for Child Support

Each parent is held financially responsible for any additional support, such as medical expenses and daycare costs. Additionally, New York courts may modify child support orders, if a change in circumstances would warrant a modification.

In order to change or reduce child support payments, one of the parents must file a Motion to Modify. This is a formal request which asks the courts to consider changing the child support order that was previously entered. Keep in mind that the court is not required to grant the Motion to Modify; and, they will generally require proof that circumstances have changed substantially enough to warrant the modification.

Generally speaking, requests to lower child support payments are most often granted on the following grounds:

  • Changes in Income: If the paying parent’s income is substantially less than when the child support obligation was calculated, the order may be modified. Some examples of this would be after the parent loses their job, is incarcerated, or becomes disabled;
  • Changes in the Custody Arrangement: Modifications are frequently granted if the custody arrangement changes in such a way that the paying parent naturally incurs more routine expenses associated with supporting the child; and
  • Change in Costs: An example of this would be how a steep increase in health insurance costs could result in the paying parent’s monthly child support payment being lowered, in order to reflect that change.

Seeking Legal Help

If you have any questions regarding calculating child support in New York, or are experiencing any issues associated with child support orders, you should consult with an experienced and local New York child support lawyer

Because much of the child support determination process varies from state to state, an area attorney will be best suited to helping you understand New York’s process and applicable laws. An experienced and local child support lawyer can help you through the child support process. An attorney can also help you file for modification if necessary, and will also be able to represent you in court as needed.