In the state of New York, child support is paid until the child reaches the age of 21 years old. If a child becomes emancipated, then child support can end earlier.
Emancipation is when the child no longer lives with the parents and is self-supporting. Emancipation can happen if a child is under 21 and:
- Gets married
- Joins the military
- Finishes 4 years of college
- Is at least 18 years old and is working full time to support themselves. Summer, vacation, or seasonal jobs do not count as self-supporting jobs.
- If a child leaves home and ends their relationship with the parents unless the reason has to do with being neglected, abused, or other similar issues
While a court cannot order a parent to pay child support past 21 years of age, it is common for parents to agree to extend support until 22 if the child is still a full-time college student reaching graduation.
While the amount of child support is set by the court, the amount of the payments can change over time. New York State law allows for modifications to be made every three years to make changes in income and circumstances into account. Also, a modification can be requested at any time when there is a change of 15% or more in a parent’s income. If a parent, for example, gets a new job or a raise with a significant increase in salary, the custodial parent does not have to wait until the three-year mark to ask for a modification.
Alternatively, especially this year with Covid, where so many people have lost their jobs or a significant portion of their income, they do not have to struggle until that three-year window to ask for a modification to child support payments.
Continuation of Education
If a child continues their education past High School, a parent can be ordered to pay for a portion of college expenses. Often this decision of whether a child is going to college is made several years before children graduate from High School. Children will get ready for college by attending classes to prepare for college exams or even take pre-college classes for credit. A court can order a parent to contribute to the educational expenses of a child.
However, the amount is not based on the actual cost of college. For most families, if a child is accepted to an out-of-state school with very high tuition, the amount required would be unreasonable for a parent to be expected to pay subject to the income of the parents. To help lower or middle-class families, New York courts may utilize a SUNY Cap.
The SUNY Cap limits the amount that a parent may be ordered to pay regardless of where a child goes to school. The cap sets the amount a parent would pay based on the cost of sending a child to a SUNY School.
This cap is neither automatic nor based on a set amount. If circumstances change and a parent earns enough money to afford more than the SUNY Cap would require, a judge could order a parent to pay more than they would have with the cap. The SUNY Cap also does not have a set amount since the tuition of different schools in the SUNY system varies based on school and program.
Child support or the amount a parent must contribute to the care of a child could change several times due to changes in circumstances or the child's needs. While it is common for divorced parents to agree on the amount paid and even allow for modifications without court intervention, it is often the case where parents do not agree and require an attorney's assistance to negotiate the amount to be paid or represent their interests in Family Court.