New York Child Support

What Is New York Child Support

By Staff Writer

In New York, both parents are obligated to provide financial support for their children until they reach the age of twenty-one. In intact households, providing for a child’s support is rarely an issue. The parents merely contribute to the child’s expenses in whatever manner they have adopted as a family.

When parents separate or Divorce, how the two parents meet the needs and expenses of their children is often a contentious issue. This issue can be resolved informally, by an agreement, or by a Court after litigation. The expenses of raising a child include food and clothing, housing, utilities, medical expenses, transportation, education, childcare, extra-curricular activities and more.

Every state has a Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) which is a written law or Statue, which dictates how Child Support will be calculated and paid. The CSSA is a very detailed law, set out in many pages of fine print. It defines income, support and other terms, and provides a step by step formula for Courts and attorneys to use to determine Child Support issues. The CSSA has the advantage of providing consistency. It does not matter what County you live in or what County your case is pending in. Child Support will be determined by reference to the CSSA in every Court in New York State.

A parent’s obligation to pay New York child support does not depend on marital status. Unmarried parents, as well as those who are or were married, can be obligated to pay support for their children. There is no requirement in New York that you must be, or have been, married to your child’s parent in Order to receive Child Support. If the parents were never married, the Court will first make a determination as to paternity before considering the issue of New York Child Support. If paternity is established, an Order of Filiation will be entered and the Court will move on to the issue of support.

In rare cases, a parent may be directed to pay New York child support even if they are not the biological parent. When Courts have ruled in such a manner, they have usually based their determination on the fact that an unmarried “father” openly recognized a child as his own or had a legal relationship to the child through adoption.

As set forth above, both parents have an obligation to provide New York child support. The CSSA actually requires an analysis of both parents’ income and assesses a New York Child Support obligation for each of them. Although Child Support is initially calculated based on the income of both parties, only the non-custodial parent makes a New York Child Support payment. That payment is made to the custodial parent. New York requires that the Court identify a custodial and non-custodial parent for the purposes of the CSSA, even when the parties have joint Custody. In many families where the parents have joint Custody, one parent is still the primary physical custodian and the children reside primarily with that parent. That parent would be the custodial parent.

When parents share physical Custody on an absolutely equal basis, it is not so easy to determine which parent must pay child support which, can cause a great deal of litigation. In many cases, the Court will simply Order the party with the larger income to pay New York child support to the other parent. In almost all cases, that result is absolutely unsatisfying to the other parent. When parents are sharing Custody on an absolutely equal basis, they are often doing so for their child’s benefit and they are also usually capable of resolving disputes that they may have. As a result many equal Custody cases result in negotiated agreements that reflect the parents’ attempt to equally provide for their children’s needs without resorting impersonal formulas and Court Ordered decisions.

The Child Support Standards Act is a detailed statute because Child Support can be such a contentious issue. In addition to the numerous pages of legislation contained in the CSSA, many Courts have written decisions interpreting and explaining the provisions of the CSSA. To further complicate matters, the lower level Courts in New York are occasionally overruled by the higher level, or Appellate Courts. As a result, the laws affecting Child Support change with some degree of regularity. To determine support in any case, your Attorney must be familiar with both the CSSA and the current decisions of the Courts.

The CSSA became effective in 1989. It is currently applicable to a majority of the New York Child Support Orders in effect.  If your Order of Child Support predates the CSSA, the CSSA might not apply to you. You should consult with an attorney to determine if that issue affects you.