In New York, parents are responsible for supporting a child until the child turns 21, unless the child is sooner emancipated. A child may become emancipated before age 21 if, for example, he/she joins the military, marries, or lives independent from his/her parents and is self-supporting. When couples divorce or legally separate, that obligation to their children continues but there is frequently a dispute over who should pay child support and how much they owe.
Who pays child support?
When married parents divorce or legally separate, it is most common for a non-custodial parent to pay child support to a custodial parent. The parent with primary physical custody (meaning the child spends the majority of his or her time with that parent) is the custodial parent. The custodial parent can receive child support even if he or she could support the child without the other parent's contributions.
The non-custodial parent usually pays child support to the custodial parent for the child's food, clothing, housing and other expenses. A non-custodial parent may also pay for part of the child's educational or medical expenses, as well as the custodial parent's child care expenses.
When parents are unmarried, and paternity has been established by an Acknowledgement of Paternity or an Order of Filiation, unmarried parents have largely the same responsibilities as parents who were married when the child was born, meaning the non-custodial parent will likely need to pay child support to the custodial parent.
How much does a parent pay for child support?
Child support payments can be decided by agreement between the parents, by a New York Family Court or during a divorce proceeding in the New York Supreme Court.
If parents cannot agree, the Child Support Standards Act provides a standard formula for calculating child support obligations. The calculation starts with the parents' income (less certain deductions), which is then multiplied by a standard percentage for the number of children. Then the non-custodial parent's share of educational, child care, and medical expenses is calculated and added to the child support obligation.
The Court may deviate from the formula based on unique factors in each individual child support case, including:
- Each parent's financial situation
- The child's needs
- The standard of living the child would have had if the parents still lived together
- The difference between each parent's income
- Non-monetary contributions one parent may make to the child's care
- Other factors the Court considers relevant
If a parent's circumstances change (for example, there is a change in income), he or she can ask that a child support obligation be adjusted.
How is custody related to child support?
Custody and child support are only related in that it is usually the non-custodial parent who pays child support to the custodial parent. However, paying child support does not mean a parent has custody or visitation rights. And a parent may still owe child support, even if he or she does not have any visitation rights.
Experienced New York Family Law Attorney
If you are a parent involved in a divorce, separation, child custody dispute or child support proceeding, it is important that you have knowledgeable legal representation to protect your rights and your child's rights. Child custody and support orders may last many years, and substantially affect your income and children's schedules. Getting it correct is of critical importance.
In most cases, it will be less expensive and painful for everyone involved (including children) if parents can settle these matters on their own, with the help of their attorneys. Legal representation is important because verbal agreements (or written agreements that were drafted without a lawyer's review) are not enough to protect you. Circumstances and feelings change, and a former spouse or partner may not honor a verbal promise. And a written agreement that does not meet New York's specific legal requirements may not be enforceable.
If you are considering hiring a family law attorney, contact Frost & Kavanaugh, PC to schedule a consultation. We pride ourselves on settling the vast majority of our family law cases without having to go to trial. This helps our clients avoid an expensive, painful and time-consuming court battle, so they can move on to the next stage of their lives more quickly.
Frost & Kavanaugh family law retainers start at $2,500 and vary according to the complexity of the case. We charge a modest fee for family law consultations, but if you decide to hire us, we deduct that consultation fee from the retainer.