A New York court cannot grant a divorce until the parties have addressed, among other issues, custody of any children and the child support obligation of the non-custodial parent. The parties may agree to terms and ask the court to approve them as part of a final judgment of divorce, or they may submit their dispute to the court to resolve for them after a trial. If the court must decide child support, New York law establishes guidelines based on the parties’ combined income and other factors.
What Counts as Income?
Section 240 of the New York Domestic Relations Law sets forth most of the child support standards and guidelines. When calculating the child support obligation, the court must consider both parents’ income, known as “combined parental income” (CPI).
The law’s definition of “income” includes more than just salary, wages, tips, and commissions. It also includes benefits received from worker’s compensation, public and private disability insurance, unemployment insurance, Social Security, Veterans’ Affairs, pensions, retirement plans, annuities, and imputed income based on fringe benefits.
Amount of Support
State law generally calculates child support as a percentage of CPI, based on the number of children. The percentage is 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and a minimum of 35% for five or more children.
The non-custodial parent must pay a pro rata share of the child support percentage. If both parents have the same income and one child, the non-custodial parent would pay one-half of 17% of CPI. If the non-custodial parent’s income accounts for 40% of CPI, their obligation would be 40% of 17% of CPI.
The New York Social Services Law sets an upper limit for this calculation, known as the combined parental income amount (CPIA). As of January 31, 2014, CPIA is $141,000 per year. Beginning on January 31, 2016, and repeating every two years afterwards, the amount will increase by an amount based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer price index.
If the parties’ CPI exceeds the CPIA, the court may still apply the same percentage to the excess amount, or it may base the amount on certain other factors, such as both parents’ financial resources, the child’s “physical and emotional health” and “special needs and aptitudes,” the child’s standard of living if the parents had not divorced, non-monetary contributions by either parent to the child’s care, the parents’ educational needs, and other children who are not subject to this child support order and receive support from the non-custodial parent.
Duration of Support Obligation
Once ordered by a court, a child support obligation continues until the earliest of one of the following:
– The child turns 21;
– The child dies;
– The same court modifies the child support obligation; or
– The child becomes legally emancipated through financial self-support, marriage, or enlistment in the military.
Modification of Child Support
Either parent can request a modification of child support by filing a motion in the same court that made the original order.
Ingrid Gherman has over 30 years of child support experience in the greater New York City area. We help our clients address difficult legal questions involving divorce, child support, custody and visitation, and other family law matters. Contact us online or at (212) 941-0767 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.
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