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How Is Income Used to Determine Child Support?

New York judges take several factors into account when determining how much money parents should pay for child support. The incomes of both parents are an important consideration in the overall calculation.

Income and Child Support

The Child Support Standards Act was enacted to create fair and consistent child support awards in New York. As much as possible, children should enjoy the same standard of living they had when their parents were together. Child support is money that one parent pays the other to help support a child. The parent who spends less time with the child is usually the payor. Payments generally continue until the child reaches the age of 21.

The court examines both parents' annual income per year and the number of their minor children. State law provides specific guidelines on how to calculate child support in cases where the parents' combined income is $163,000 or less.

Gross income includes wages, disability payments, pensions, spousal support, and any other types of income.

Deductions made from the gross income include the following:

  • Court-ordered spousal maintenance paid to a former spouse
  • Court-ordered child support paid to children from other relationships
  • Taxes such as FICA and city

Another formula is used to calculate how much of the parents’ incomes should be used toward caring for the children.

The combined income is multiplied by a percentage based on the number of minor children involved:

  • One child: 17%
  • Two children: 25%
  • Three children: 29%
  • Four children: 31%
  • Five or more children: 35% or more

That amount is then divided between the parents according to how much they make. If one parent’s income was $100,000 and the other income was $50,000 for example, the higher earner would pay twice as much toward caring for the child.

Using the above income example and two children, the total child support obligation is $37,500 per year. The higher-earning parent is expected to pay about $24,750 annually ($2,062 monthly). The other parent is obligated to pay about $12,750 annually ($1062 monthly). In addition to the basic support, parents will also be required to pay their share of child care expenses and unreimbursed medical expenses.

The state presumes the parent with physical custody is contributing the basic support required. The non-custodial parent pays their share to the other parent.

Child Support for High-Earning Parents

In high-net-worth divorce cases, the combined parental income exceeds the $163,000 cap. State law permits but does not require, the use of the child support percentages in calculating the child support obligation on the income above $163,000. The court can choose to apply the same formula to all or some of the amount over the income cap.

The court may also consider the following factors in ordering child support:

  • The financial resources of each parent
  • The child’s physical and emotional health
  • The standard of living the child would enjoy if parents were together
  • The educational needs of each spouse
  • Non-monetary contributions each parent makes for the child’s well-being
  • The tax consequences for each parent
  • The needs of other children being supported by the non-custodial parent

The court has latitude in determining what serves the best interest of the child.

Child Support for Low-Income Parents

New York’s law protects low-income non-custodial parents. If the parent earns less than the federal poverty level (currently $13,590), a child support order can be ordered at $25 per month. Past-due child support is capped at $500.

The court can order a non-custodial parent with an income below the state’s self-support reserve (currently $18,347) to pay $50 per month.

The court will likely impute your income if the judge believes you are voluntarily underemployed or unemployed to avoid child support. Imputed income means the court will determine what you could or should be earning based on previous employment.

Understand Your Child Support Rights

Parents want the best for their children but can differ on what that means. New York law provides a framework in which the court determines the financial obligation required by both parents. The courts can decide the child support obligations, parents can also negotiate child support and other divorce elements outside of court.

At Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, we use that framework and the built-in flexibility to negotiate and argue for our client and their children. We also have experience in helping clients who have overpaid child support.

If you have questions about your current or potential child support obligations, talk with one of our skilled attorneys. Schedule a consultation by calling (845) 605-4330.