Who Pays Child Support When Parents Share Custody?

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A common question by divorcing parents involves child support when the couple has joint custody of their children. Generally, under New York law, the parent who has primary physical custody gets child support from the other parent. However, if parents technically share physical custody equally, who is responsible for paying support?

The child support obligation covers basic expenses such as food, clothing and shelter expenses. These are determined by a statutory formula.

Add-on child support expenses include unreimbursed medical costs, child care, private school, summer camp, extracurricular school activities, and tutoring, among other things. Add-on expenses are paid pro rata according to the parties’ respective incomes.

Physical custody is usually determined based on where the child lives most of the time. Specifically, the law looks at where the child sleeps at night. If a judge awards joint physical custody, the following rules apply.

  1. Joint physical custody means the child should sleep overnight in each parent’s home 50% of the time.
  2. If the child in fact equally splits overnights with each parent, then the higher income spouse pays the lower income spouse.
  3. However, parents should track how many overnights their child spends with them. If there is a substantial change in the number of overnights, an adjustment in child support may be needed.
  4. The custodial parent can get child support even if that parent can support the child on their own and they make more money than the other parent.

These rules are important because child support is payable until a child turns 21 years of age. If you share custody with your spouse or are contemplating a shared custody arrangement, contact us to learn how we can help you develop an appropriate custody and child support agreement.

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