While we try to make this blog fun, sometimes what parents and spouses need are the straight facts. In this post, we are going to provide you with just that – here is a detailed rundown of how exactly child support is calculated in New York.
The first question we often hear from clients is – which parent has to pay? You might be surprised to learn that the identity of the paying party does not depend on income. Instead, whoever is the residential custodian of the child or children will receive child support from the other parent. This is true even if the residential custodian earns multiples more than the parent who does not have custody. If one parent has the child more than the other parent, that parent presumptively gets child support.
What happens when the parents have exactly equal time with the child? In that situation, income actually is determinative. The courts of New York have held that in joint parenting arrangements, the parent earning more money must pay the other parent child support.
Many parents are also surprised to hear that the amount of time you have with your child does not determine your level of support. This is key, and it is a fact not well known among non-lawyers who have never dealt with New York’s child support regime.
Instead, the presumptively correct amount of support is determined by reference to a formula which takes into account the parties’ incomes, but not amounts of parenting time. Now, let’s go through a step-by-step analysis to show to arrive at the presumptively correct child support number (and yes, we will explain that “presumptive” in a bit).
STEP ONE – Determine the incomes of both parties. Income is based on what you did or should have declared on your most recently filed tax return, less deductions for local, Medicare, and Social Security taxes (not federal or state income taxes). If you have investment income, cash income, or some other non-traditional, non W2 income, yes, that also must be included in the amount.
STEP TWO – Determine the percentage of total parental income that the state has determined should go to child support. For one child, this is 17%. For two, 25%, and so on: 29%, 31%, and for five or more children, no less than 35%.
STEP THREE – Add up the income of both parents up to $143,000, and apply the child support percentage. So if the total parental income is $100,000, and there are two children, $25,000 of that income would be directed toward child support.
STEP FOUR – Apportion the incomes of both parents to determine who should pay what. For example, if the number you came up with in step three is $25,000, and the parental incomes are $25,000 and $75,000, the higher earning parent would be presumed to pay $18,750 per year (75% of $25,000), and the lower earning parent $6,250 per year (25% of $25,000).
STEP FIVE – Which parent has residential custody? That is the parent who will be paying the amount we determined in step four, to the other parent. In cases of equal parenting time, the higher earning parent will pay the amount to the lower earning parent.
There are two wrinkles to this. First, note that this only applies to income up to $143,000. For income over that amount, a court will decide whether to take that “extra income” into account, and how to do so. For example, if the parties lived a particularly lavish lifestyle with the child while they were together, the court may be inclined to award additional child support so that parts of that lifestyle are not abruptly discontinued.
Second, remember that word “presumptive” earlier? Well, the court is not bound to this formula. If, for some reason, a court feels that the amount given by the formula is too low or too high, they may adjust it.
That said, in the majority of child support cases, the formula we just went through will govern and determine the proper amount of child support paid. To learn more about New York’s child support laws, read on here. And if you have concerns or questions about a child support obligation in your own life, contact our office and set up a consultation.