In last week’s post, I discussed the rising concern among fathers (and mothers) with establishing Paternity that I see as an experienced Long Island Family Law Attorney and the legal issues involved. This week we’ll discuss the rights and responsibilities that come once paternity is established.
Frequently Asked Questions Once Paternity has Been Established
Once you’ve established paternity you have the legal status of a child’s father. Many men ask me what this really means to them. They ask questions like, What are my obligations? What are the benefits that come along with being a legal father? Some men are very concerned that the obligations that come along with being a father will have a harsh impact on their day-to-day lives, however, for most men, the obligations that come along with being a father are far outweighed by the joys of fatherhood. If you find that the obligations, specifically the financial expectations now placed upon you, are having a negative impact in your life, please know, these financial obligations will end. Support obligations have a finite end date in the eyes of Nassau County and Suffolk County courts in New York State.
Your Financial Obligations to your Child
With divorce rates and unwed pregnancy rates being what they are, the phrase “child support” is widely known. There are, however, some common misconceptions about just what obligations are placed upon you as a result of having been declared a father.
Beginning with the most basic requirements, the Child Support Standards Act sets forth the obligations placed upon a non-custodial parent, or the parent who does not have residential custody of the child. Keep in mind, however, that the parents are free to deviate or opt-out of the Child Support Standards Act by reaching a fair and mutual agreement. A non-custodial parent’s basic child support obligation is intended to assist the custodial parent in providing for the basic needs of the child, including food, clothing and shelter. Then there are additional “add-on” expenses to cover the cost of child care and health insurance.
First and foremost, if you are deemed the non-custodial parent, whether the mother has sole custody or if you share joint custody, but you have less time than the mother, you will have to pay child support to the custodial parent. Basic child support is determined by calculating each parent’s share of the combined parental income. This percentage is known as the pro-rata share and will determine the responsibility of each party. For instance, let’s say Parent A makes $75,000 per year (as reported as his or her adjusted gross income on the last filed income tax return) and Parent B makes $25,000 per year (again, as reported as his or her adjusted gross income on the last filed income tax return). The combined parental income would be $100,000 per year, with Parent A contributing 75% and Parent B contributing 25% to the combined income. Parent A’s pro-rata share would be 75% and Parent B’s pro-rata share would be 25%.
The percentage of each parent’s adjusted gross income that is used to calculate basic child support is as follows:
- 17% of the combined parental income for one child
- 25% for two children
- 29% for three children
- 31% for four children
- No less than 35% for five or more children
Once the percentage is determined, you will be responsible for providing your pro-rata share. Continuing using the example from above, using the 17% for one child, the Court would take 17% of the combined parental income, which was $100,000, giving us $17,000 as the basic child support obligation. Parent A would then be responsible for his or her pro-rata share of that number, namely $12,750 per year, and Parent B would be responsible for his or her pro-rata share, namely $4,250 per year.
Moving to the final step, if Parent A is the custodial parent, Parent B would be responsible for paying $4,250 per year to Parent A as and for basic child support. Conversely, if Parent B is the custodial parent, Parent A would be responsible for paying $12,750 per year to Parent B for basic child support.
It is important to note that this formula is applied to combined parental income above the poverty line. If a parent’s income falls below that line, the minimum amount for basic child support is $300 per year. Any combined parental income above the statutory threshold, which is currently $143,000 per year, will require the Court to consider additional factors in determining the child support obligation (meaning that the non-custodial parent is NOT obligated to pay child support to the custodial parent on income over the statutory threshold). Also of importance is that the Court may impute the income of a noncustodial parent. This may occur when the parent is unemployed or underemployed, or, if the Court believes that an individual is attempting to avoid child support obligations.
In addition to providing basic child support, the noncustodial parent will also be responsible for his or her pro-rata share of unreimbursed medical expenses and day care costs, and may be responsible for a portion of the child(ren)’s educational expenses including but not limited to supplies, books, extracurricular activities, tutoring, standardized test fees, and uniforms if applicable.
How Long Do These Obligations Last?
Many noncustodial parents find these financial burdens to be incredible. Many usually question when the obligations will end or decrease, and are happy to know there are options available to them. There are a few different routes to take when attempting to alter your child support obligations.
If you are seeking a downward modification, there must be a showing of either
- a substantial change in circumstances
- that 3 years have passed since the ordered was entered, last modified, or adjusted,
- there has been a change in either party’s gross income by 15% or more since the order was entered, last modified, or adjusted.
A downward modification can also be given if you have multiple children together and there is an emancipation event for one child. Emancipation events are occurrences that terminate a child support obligation. Some such events are
- the child reaching the age of 21
- (ii) the child’s marriage
- (iii) death of the child or parent
- (iv) the child’s entering into the armed forces of the United States or the Peace Corps
- the child’s engaging in full-time employment.
It is important to note that your child support obligation will not terminate automatically upon an emancipation event unless provided for in an agreement between the parties. If there is no such agreement, the non-custodial parent must file the appropriate petition with the Court, or, the order directing support will remain in effect despite the child having emancipated.
The abovementioned emancipation events also serve as grounds to terminate your child support obligation. For example, if you have one child you are currently supporting and that child reaches the age of 21, you no longer have a child support obligation, nor are you responsible for any other pro-rata costs such as the unreimbursed medical expenses previously mentioned. However, you must be sure to file the appropriate paperwork with the Court to terminate these obligations.
As you can see, these obligations do not last forever, they are a finite obligation to ensure your child is provided for. While this post gave an introduction to the obligations that result from being a parent, there are many twists and turns that can occur while your case is ongoing. It is for this reason that finding the right Long Island Divorce and Family Law Attorney is so crucial. Your Attorney will be able to help you navigate these issues and protect your rights throughout the length of your case and beyond.
Contact an Experienced Long Island Family Law Attorney with Your Child Support Questions
If you have questions about Child Support in courts on Long Island, it’s best to contact an experienced Long Island Family Law attorney right away. The family law firm of Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. can assist you with all your child support issues and advocate for you in court. Contact our office today at 631-923-1910 for a free consultation.
Check out our Divorce Guide for Dads for more information about divorce issues specifically related to fathers.
Download Your Free New York Divorce Guide
Our 41-page “Guide to New York Divorce: What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in New York” written by an experienced family law lawyer, Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., provides you with real information on the divorce process and the laws it rests upon in the state of New York. This book will help give you a solid foundation upon which you can begin the process of making your family’s, life better.