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Understanding the basics of New York child support requirements

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2021 | Child Custody

Divorcing New York couples with minor children often put child support at the top of their list of concerns. Will I be required to pay child support or will my ex-spouse be required to pay support to me? How much will the payment be? Can an order for child support be changed if circumstances change? Every family situation is unique, but the basic rules of child support in New York apply to all divorces.

When is ordered child support to be paid?

To answer this question requires an understanding of the purpose of child support in New York. Child support basically intended to ensure that both parents contribute to the future welfare of their children. Therefore, the court will make a calculation of how much each ex-spouse is likely to earn after the divorce is final. Using the state guidelines, the court will then apportion the income of the parents to meet the anticipated needs of the children. If the non-custodial parent is expected to earn substantially more than the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent will be expected to pay child support to the custodial parent.

The basic guideline is to protect the best interests of the child (or children). That standard – “best interests of the children – is complex and difficult to define. It normally includes an adequate allowance for medical expenses, clothing, education and similar expenses. Determining these amounts usually occupies much of the court’s and the divorcing parents’ time during the divorce.

Predicting the child support amount that the court will require

New York has established guidelines for the calculation of support. After determining the parents’ combined net income, the court will apply the following percentages to the couple’s total income:

  • 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.

These percentages are only applied to the first $154,000 of combined parental income. Above that, the court may apply the same percentages to income over the cap, employ its own formula, or do nothing. The court’s choice is usually not predictable.

As can be seen from this summary, predicting the amount of child support is almost totally a guessing game. Anyone who is concerned about the amount of child support that may be ordered may wish to consult (or retain) an experienced family law attorney for advice. A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate the family’s situation, review income calculations and provide a rough idea of the amount of child support that may be ordered.