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How courts calculate child support if parents have no set income

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2024 | Family Law

In New York, courts determine basic child support by using a mathematical formula that factors in parents’ combined monthly income. However, when parents, usually business owners or entrepreneurs, have fluctuating incomes, the factors may not be the same.

In these cases, determining child support arrangements can be complex. Nonetheless, the courts have their own approach to determine an amount for support payments.

Weighing in other factors

Aside from the parents’ monthly incomes, other factors can affect the court’s determination for support. This includes the following:

  • Average income: Courts can average the parent’s income over a certain period, such as the past five years, to establish a baseline for payments.
  • Potential earning capacity: In other cases, courts may consider the parent’s earning potential, such as the income they could be making, given their skills, education and job opportunities.
  • Previous earnings: If the fluctuating income is a pattern, like in seasonal work, courts can consider the history of earnings across similar periods.
  • Imputed income: If it seems a parent is underemployed or not earning to their capability intentionally, courts might ‘impute’ income, which means attributing a presumed income level based on what the parent should be earning.
  • Other financial resources: Courts may also consider other financial resources available to the parent, such as significant assets that could influence their ability to support their child.

Once courts determine a base level of income through the available factors, it will apply the state’s child support guidelines to calculate the support amount.

Setting expectations

While courts commonly consider the factors mentioned above when parents have no set monthly income, the outcome of each support case will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of the case as well as the judge’s discretion.

Keeping this in mind can help parents maintain their expectations during child support determination, regardless of whether they are the parent requesting or receiving support on behalf of their child or the parent the court will order to pay support. In cases like these, it is advisable to seek the advice of an experienced legal representative to understand the child support determination process.