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Under New York law, every parent on Long Island has an obligation to provide for his or her children. 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

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.

The Current Child Support Formula for Long Island

The formula used to calculate child support in New York is adjusted every year. It uses the combined income of both parents and is presently 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.

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.

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.

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.

Finally, 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.

Call an Experienced Long Island Family Law Attorney if You Need Help with Child Support

Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. is a Long Island Divorce Attorney and Divorce Mediator in Melville, New York. 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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