Is Child Support Calculated Differently for Wealthy Parents?

Since 1989, New York has used the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) to provide the framework for allocating child support in the state.

This New York child support formula is used on all couples with a combined income of up to $163,000 (as of March 2022). When the income is above that limit, a judge has considerable flexibility in determining the amount of support the non-custodial parent should pay to the custodial parent.

In high-net-worth divorces with children, an attorney experienced in high-income cases can logically and thoroughly demonstrate to a judge why they should consider the income that rises above the cap in their child support determination.

The Need to Include Income Over the State Limit

Some New York couples make many times more than the state-set cap. In these cases, the children of these couples typically have a high standard of living that should continue after their parents’ divorce. New York believes that children should not be effectively punished because a marriage ended.

Children of wealthy parents often have additional expenses:

  • European vacations
  • Private prep schools
  • Exclusive summer camps
  • Private music lessons
  • Special sports training
  • Designer clothes and accessories

At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, our attorneys can argue how these expenses are reasonable and important to the child. In addition, the payor parent can afford it.

The Standard Child Support Formula

The formula is straightforward on the surface but gets complicated in application:

  • The combined income of both parents (minus allowable deductions) is multiplied by a percentage (based on the number of children needing support).
  • The amount calculated is then divided between the parents according to their incomes.

Calculating Income

The combined parental income includes wages, investment income, Social Security benefits, pensions, retirement benefits, alimony/maintenance payments, and other sources. Allowed deductions include FICA taxes, alimony/maintenance paid to the other parent, alimony/maintenance or child support paid to a former partner, and unreimbursed employee business expenses.

The multiplier based on the number of children equals the following:

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

The Judge’s Authority to Deviate from the Formula

When the parental income exceeds the state limit, the judge can choose to use all or a percentage of the income in the established formula, or another reasonable method for determining the child support obligation. Driving the decision is always what is in the best interests of the child.

In a case where the combined income does not exceed the income cap:

  • If the combined income is $150,000 and the couple has two children (.25), the basic child support would equal $37,500. If the payor parent’s income represented 60% of the $150,000, they would pay $22,500 (37,500 x .60) annually in child support.

A judge can use several different methods of using the standard formula with high-income custody cases:

  • If the parents in the above scenario had a combined income of $4 million, the standard calculation using all the income would come to a total of $1 million, and the payor parent is responsible for $600,000 annually. Depending on the expenses and lifestyle of the family, that amount might be reasonable.
  • In the same scenario, the judge may determine that $600,000 is excessive for this particular care. They may choose to only apply $3 million to the formula and calculate an annual obligation of $450,000.
  • The judge could also consider only the cap amount ($163,000) in the formula and add specific expenses to determine a final amount.

An attorney is critical to strongly advocate for your desired outcome.

Parents Can Make Their Own Agreement

A judge or support magistrate is not the only one who can decide on child support. Parents may enter into agreements that provide more or less than the formula.

The agreement must meet these requirements:

  • The agreement includes that both parents are aware of the provisions of the CSSA.
  • If one or both parents do not have legal counsel, the unrepresented parent is given a copy of a chart that shows the formula amount.
  • The basic child support obligation is stated in the agreement and the order.
  • If the amount deviates from the standard child support obligation, the reason must be justified in the agreement.

Fighting for Fair Child Support Obligations

At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, we have significant experience representing both custodial and non-custodial parents.

We can help if you have primary custody wanting to ensure that you receive enough child support to care for your child's needs. We also can help if you are a non-custodial parent wanting to make sure your child support obligation does not become a cash cow for your ex.

We stand ready to fight for fair child support. Schedule a consultation with our team by calling (845) 605-4330 or reaching out online.

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