our everyday life

Child Support Laws in New York State

by Julie Davoren

New York state law requires both parents to contribute to their children’s financial care. The state calculates support requirement based on both incomes. Generally, the noncustodial parent pays his share of child support to the custodial parent -- defined as the parent with whom the child lives most of the time.

Paternity Establishment

In New York, paternity is not assumed for unmarried parents. As a result, when an unmarried mother seeks child support payments, she first must establish legal paternity for her children. Legal paternity gives her children the same rights as children born to married parents, including child support benefits. To establish paternity, the parents can complete an Acknowledgement of Paternity form, or they can file a court petition. The courts also might order genetic testing if there's a dispute, or if one parent refuses to sign the acknowledgement of paternity form.

Covered Costs

Child support includes cash payments to take care of the children’s everyday needs, as well as health insurance coverage. It also can include payments for health care costs that the insurance plan doesn’t cover. Child support orders are specific to each case, and courts consider each child’s needs and the parents’ situation. For example, a support order might include payments for the children’s educational expenses. If the custodial parent works, attends school or participates in a training program that leads to employment, the order might include daycare expenses.

Duration of Obligation

In New York, parents must support their children until the children turn 21. This rule doesn’t apply to children who become emancipated. If children younger than 21 get married, can support themselves or join the military, the state considers them emancipated. Children between 17 and 21 who move out of their parents’ home and refuse to follow their parents’ rules also are considered emancipated.

Support Calculation

To figure the required support payment, the courts combine the parents’ incomes, after subtracting deductions such as alimony and existing child support obligations. If a child requires special care, this cost is also considered. The courts then apply a percentage to the resulting income to determine the total support required for the children. This percentage depends on the number of children involved. For example, for one child, the courts multiply the combined income by 17 percent. The applicable percentages for more children are as follows:

  • Two Children – 25 percent
  • Three children – 29 percent
  • Four children – 31 percent
  • Five or more children – at least 35 percent

The end result is the required support amount, and it’s used to calculate the noncustodial parent’s monthly payment. To come up with this payment, the courts compare the parent’s individual income to the combined incomes. That is, they divide the parent’s income by the combined incomes to get the percentage that the parent must contribute to the required support. Finally, they multiply the resulting percentage by the required support amount.

Sample Calculation

Assume a couple has three children. The noncustodial parent’s income is $25,000, and the custodial parent’s income is $15,000. All mandatory income is included and mandatory deductions are already subtracted. Their combined income is $40,000, thus the required support amount is $11,600; 29 percent of $40,000. The noncustodial parent’s income is 62.5 percent of the combined income ($25,000/$40,000). So, her support payment is $7,250, or 62.5 percent of $11,600. That works out to $604.17 per month.

Enforcement

The State Division of Child Support Enforcement works with local Child Support Enforcement Units to help parents with child support issues. This might include locating noncustodial parents, establishing support, collecting late payments and modifying court orders. Custodial parents might have to pay a $25 fee each year for this service.

The State has several processes in place if a noncustodial parent fails to pay child support payments. For example, the delinquent parent might be blocked from getting or renewing a passport. The State also might place liens on the parent’s property, intercept federal tax refunds or suspend the noncustodial parent’s driver’s license.