New York Child Support Guidelines

In 1989, New York passed the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA). The main purpose of this legislation was to establish minimum and meaningful standards of obligations on the premise that both parents share the responsibilities for child support. The CSSA brings a sense of uniformity and predictability with child support. Child support can be generally defined as the amount of money to be paid for the care, maintenance and education of an un-emancipated child.

NY defines basic child support as the sum derived by the application of the child support guidelines formula, as increased by obligations for health, child care and education expenses. So what does all that mean? Basic child support is the regular periodic payment of support made by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent, which payment is inclusive of the noncustodial parent’s obligations for all the child’s needs except for health care, child care, and educational expenses. The obligations for health care, child care, and educational expenses are commonly referred to as “add-ons.”

The question clients often ask is how much can I expect to pay or receive in child support? The procedure required by the guidelines which the Court will abide is as follows: First the Court will combine both parents income. A base line is used which has been recently changed. The base line was $80,000.00 however has been changed to $136,000.00. In other words, the incomes will be combined but the Court will use $136,000.00 as a baseline in its calculations in the event the combination of salaries is greater than $136,000.00 (I will discuss what happens if the combined salary exceeds $136,000.00 later).

Once the salaries are combined, that number is multiplied by the statutory percentage which is a function of how many children there are in the marriage. (The percentages are: 17% for one child; 25% for two; 29% for three; 31% for four; 35% for five or more however, the Court has discretion when setting the percentage for five or more children.) Once this number is determined, the amount of child support is then apportioned between the parents on a pro rata basis. Under the guideline, the only payment that is made is made by the noncustodial parent.

In the event that the combined salaries are greater than $136,000.00, the Court will use the same calculation but the Court will then decide whether an additional award based on the increased income available. All calculations, regardless of income will be based on the parties’ most recent tax return. The starting point is the gross income minus FICA. If the paying spouse is also required to pay maintenance, then maintenance is subtracted from the gross salary.

Under the CSSA, the Court is to base its calculations on the parties’ tax returns and not on its estimate or approximation as to what the parties’ incomes are. The most recent tax return is the starting point of the child support calculations. If the parties filed joint tax returns, each party must prepare a form, sworn to under the penalty of perjury, disclosing his or her gross individual income. The Court is authorized to look to the amount that a party should have been or should be reported. Distributions from pension and profit sharing plans are reportable as income on tax returns, and thus will be treated as income for CSSA purposes. Maintenance is to be deducted from the noncustodial parent’s income.

What happens if the CSSA brings you below the poverty level? Where that happens, the basic child support obligation is $25 per month or the difference between the non-custodial parents’ income and the federal self-support reserve, whichever is greater. If the non-custodial income would be reduced below the self-support reserve, but not below the poverty level, then the basic child support obligation is to be $50.00 a month or the difference between the non-custodial parents’ income and the self-support reserve, whichever is greater.

LEARNING POINT: While the guidelines are a helpful tool in figuring out child support, this is only the beginning. Add-ons, such as health care, college, child care and the like must also be factored in. Maintenance, if not permanent will change the amount paid in child support. If you are ordered to pay child support through twenty-one years of age, you may get credit for room and board fees you pay to a college which will lower your child support obligations. Seek out an attorney to assist you in determining the appropriate amount of child support.

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