Who Must Pay Child Support on Long Island?
Under New York law, every parent on Long Island has an obligation to provide for his or her children. On Long Island, both parents have a legal responsibility to financially support their child. The parent with whom the child lives is known as the “custodial parent”. The parent who does not live with the child is known as a “non-custodial parent”. A non-custodial parent must provide financial assistance for the support of his or her child even though he or she does not live with the child. This is true even in cases where a child spends equal time with both parents. In such cases, if the non-custodial parent is the higher earning parent, he or she may have an obligation to pay child support to the custodial parent for the care of the child.
In the event of divorce, the obligation of the non-custodial parent to support a child can be managed and enforced by the state when it becomes necessary. Child support is considered the financial support provided by a non-custodial parent for the needs of the child or children, including basic needs such as food and clothing, medical and educational expenses, child care costs and health insurance. The amount of support may be privately agreed upon between parents and caretakers, or it may be established by a Support Magistrate in Family Court in Nassau or Suffolk County.
Child Support Standards Act Sets Child Support on Long Island
Long Island courts are governed by New York state law. New York law provides a formula for calculating each parent’s financial responsibility to his or her children. The Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) takes into account the income and expenses of each parent, as well as the number of children, in order to calculate each parent’s share of child support.
Before considering factors such as medical or educational expenses, child support is determined by calculating each parent’s share of the combined parental income, and using that percentage to determine the responsibility of each party. The income calculation is based upon gross income, usually reflected in the most recent tax return, as well as other income such as disability payments, rental income and other government or employment benefits. A court may also consider other types of income such as gifts or lottery winnings in its calculation.
How is the Amount of Child Support Determined?
- 17% of the parent’s gross income for 1 child
- 25% of the parent’s gross income for 2 children
- 29% of the parent’s gross income for 3 children
- 31% of the parent’s gross income for 4 children
- 35% or more of the parent’s gross income for 5 children
This formula is applied to combined parental income above the poverty income guideline ($11,880 annually for a single person), and up to $143,000. If a parent’s income falls below the poverty income guideline, the minimum amount for basic child support is $300 per year. Above the $143,000 threshold, the Court will consider additional factors such as parents’ financial resources, additional needs of the child, and other factors it determines to be relevant. In circumstances where the total combined parental income amounts to over $143,000, the court may, but is not required to, use the percentages set forth by CSSA. This means that a larger percentage of income may be ordered in order to support the child because there is likely more discretionary income available in these circumstances.
Some non-custodial parents are also responsible for covering a certain percentage of medical, educational, and child care expenses. This percentage will be determined based upon the income of the non-custodial parent. Usually these costs are split up proportionally based upon how much each parent earns.
Retroactive Child Support in New York
Retroactive child support may also be awarded from the date that the support was demanded. Child support will not be owed retroactively from the date of the child’s birth unless a demand was made at that time.
What if Your Spouse is Under-Reporting Income?
If you are concerned that your ex makes more money than he or she is reporting, resulting in an unfair child support payment amount, it is possible that a court will look further into his or her income. A court can impute the income of a noncustodial parent if that parent is unemployed, underemployed, or reporting less than he or she is actually making. The imputation of income mechanism may be used by the court in instances in which it appears to the court that an individual is attempting to avoid child support obligations by remaining unemployed or underemployed.
For example, a court may impute the income of the individual by evaluating that individual’s monthly expenditures. For example, if a parent shows income of $11,000.00 per year, but his expenditures amount to $30,000.00 per year, a court may impute the true income by assuming that this individual earns at least $30,000.00 annually.
Can I Modify a Child Support Order?
A child support order can be modified only if there is a significant change in circumstances. A significant change in circumstances usually means a large increase or a large decrease in income. A custodial or noncustodial parent may petition the court for a modification of his child support arrangement in order to increase the amount due to increase in cost of living, or to decrease the amount due to a loss of income. A court can also modify the award if at least three years have passed since the award was ordered or modified, and there has been a 15% or greater change in either spouse’s income. The party seeking the modification would need to petition the court and ask for the court to change it.
Unpaid Child Support Can Be Collected by the State
Unpaid child support can be collected by the state in a number of ways. The Child Support Enforcement Bureau can garnish wages from the parent’s paychecks, intercept a portion of unemployment benefits or tax refunds, and can even seize of bank accounts. Other consequences for nonpayment of child support can include contempt of court, loss of driver’s license, or even jail time if a noncustodial parent is ordered to pay but does not. A court will consider whether a noncustodial parent has truly fallen on hard times before holding the parent in contempt of court. For example, if a noncustodial parent has lost a job, incurred a large medical expense, or presents some other exceptional circumstances, the court may withhold its power to do so. However, it is important to remember that, under CSSA, this decision is entirely within the discretion of the court.
What if the Custodial Parent Refuses to Allow Me to Visit With My Child?
Visitation and child support are separate issues, and a custodial parent cannot violate a court’s order to allow visitation. It is best to seek recourse in the court, such as by having a visitation order enforced or simply by asking the court for a visitation order if you do not have one.
If the Non-Custodial Parent Refuses to Pay Child Support, Can I Prevent Him or Her from Seeing My Child?
As stated above, New York State treats visitation and child support as separate issues. If you are not getting the child support that is owed to you, you should seek the advice of an experienced Long Island child support lawyer or family law attorney to go through your options.
How Do I Protect My Children’s Future?
To ensure your children are financially protected, speak to one of our experienced Family Law Attorneys. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of child support and family law in New York State, and have helped many Long Island clients with their child support concerns. The family law firm of Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. handles all aspects of family law, matrimonial law, divorce and mediation. If you have concerns about your divorce, child custody, or child support matter, call 631-923-1910 today for a free consultation.
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