When parents divorce in New York, child support is calculated according to a statutory formula. This formula can be confusing, especially since it also leaves open certain issues for a judge to decide or for the parties to negotiate. There are several key aspects to child support that parents should know in order to come to a fair award.
- Formula for basic expenses. The child support obligation covers basic expenses such as food, clothing and shelter. Generally, these are determined by a statutory formula which looks at how many children are entitled to support and what is the parents’ combined total income. The basic support award is a fixed percentage of parental income up to $148,000, depending on the number of children as follows:
- 1 child = 17%
- 2 children = 25%
- 3 children = 29%
- 4 children = 31%
- 5 or more children = 35%
If warranted, for any income over $148,000.00 the courts will try to keep the child(ren) in the same standard of living they would have been in but for the parties decision to live separate and apart. Basic child support is paid pro rata according to their respective incomes.
- Payment of additional expenses Add-on child support expenses are those expenses which do not involve food, clothing and shelter. These expenses include unreimbursed medical costs, child care, private school, summer camp, extracurricular school activities, and tutoring, among other things. These expenses are also paid pro rata according to the parties’ respective incomes.
- Parent who pays support. The non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent both basic child support and add-on expenses. If the parents equally share physical custody, then the higher income spouse pays the lower income spouse. However, be careful that custody is truly shared equally. If the children spend more than 50% of overnight visits with one parent, or more than 182 days per year, a child support adjustment may be needed.
- Effect on spousal support. Parents should note that if a parent receiving child support is also receiving spousal support, the formula changes to reduce the amount of spousal support so as to compensate for any apparent double dipping in housing costs given that that custodial parent and children share much of the space they occupy.
- Actual expenses. Some parents think that if they spend more money than they were allocated, they can get reimbursed or obtain more support. However, that is not the case. Both child and spousal support are income based calculations. The expenses are irrelevant unless they can be categorized as add-on expenses.
- Negotiating child support. The statutory guidelines leave room for negotiation between the parties. In particular, parents may agree to deviate from the child support formula upon mutual agreement provided that the parties state the reasons for the deviation and that the child(ren) are not losing out by virtue of the parents decision to settle the amount of the payment.
If you are a parent considering divorce, please contact us so we can help you find the best solution for you and your children.