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How is Child Support Calculated in New York State?


Child custody and child support are two of the most sensitive aspects of a divorce. Unless there is a history of abuse or one parent completely abandons the relationship, ensuring each parent has fair and sufficient time with their child is essential.

Legal vs. Physical Custody

A judge can grant each type of custody to a single, sole custodial parent, or choose to split each kind between both parents with joint custody. Legal custody determines which parent has the right to make significant life decisions regarding the child, focusing on lifestyle matters such as education, religion, medical care, etc., while physical custody governs the child’s living situation.

Even if the courts grant joint physical custody to both parents, it does not mean each parent will have their child exactly half of the time. In most cases, this even division creates a frantic and unrealistic schedule which ultimately puts pressure on everyone involved. Even with joint custody, one parent almost always spends significantly more time with the child. This parent naturally incurs more expenses, for necessities such as groceries, clothes, extracurricular activities, and other unexpected day-to-day incidentals.

Calculating Child Support in New York State

Child support refers to court-ordered payments from the non-custodial parent to the other to provide support with these expenses. Joint physical custody rules for payments to be made to the parent with whom the children live the majority of the time. However, there are no distinctions in support between sole or joint custody, as these are instead determined by a formula created by the Child Support Standards Act of New York state.

This formula examines the total amount of earning money in a household prior to the parents’ split. This amount becomes the baseline which dictates the child's ongoing quality of life as maintaining normalcy is the ultimate goal. While it does not consider stepchildren, this formula accounts for the number of minor children of which both parents are legally responsible.

How Is This Formula Calculated?

The percentages are as follows: 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and no less than 35% for five or more children. Here is an example of how this would be determined in a family with two minor children:

Spouse A earns $65,000 and spouse B earns $35,000 for a total of $100,000 per year. The spouses have joint custody, but the children spend the majority of time with spouse B. The percentages above dictate 25% of the total income, or $25,000, will be used for the children. Spouse A earns 65% of the total income. Therefore, Spouse A must pay 65% of the $25,000, or $16,250, to spouse B. Child support payments are not tax-deductible for the payor and payments are not reported by the spouse receiving payment. This formula scales based on total income up to $148,000.

However, the courts do have great flexibility and can extend the formula depending on individual circumstances. Most courts will extend the formula up to a range of anywhere between $250,000 and $300,000, and some will even go higher. The minimum amount below which parents are considered living in the poverty range, and payments are a flat amount per year, is currently between $300 and $600 for the year.

While this may all sound very clinical, this method removes emotion from process. Remember, judges are human, too--formulas like this prevent similar cases from resulting in vastly different outcomes simply because of a judge’s personal opinion. There are also alternatives to traditional court litigation as you and your ex can come to an informal, mutual agreement on aspects of your divorce through means such as mediation or collaboration.

Contact Our Excellent & Success-Driven Child Support Attorney Today

Even if you proceed with alternative legal processes, it is absolutely recommended you consult and retain a qualified and highly-recommended family law attorney such as ours at the Law Offices of Anthony J. LoPresti. With more than 25 years of experience passionately and effectively representing individuals and families across New York state, you can rest assured you are putting your future in the hands of a top litigator and advocate when you have our legal team on your side.

If you would like to speak to a member of our firm, please schedule a free, initial consultation by calling (516) 252-0223 today.

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