Your New York Child Support Case: The Basics

Not every Vassar College-to-Williamsburg-to-Park Slope romance can withstand the test of time. Maybe it was stress from the Lower East Side cupcake shop or the affair with the New York City Ballet dancer that caused the split. Either way, now you’ve got to figure out how to provide for your children. Here is some basic information about the intricacies of New York City child support law.

Which Parent Gets Child Support?

Following a divorce or separation, the court may order one parent to pay the other money in the form of child support. In New York, the custodial parent is eligible to apply for child support from their non-custodial ex. If the custodial parent is the mother, she must establish paternity of the person she is seeking child from. Paternity can be established when parents sign a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity or when the court determines the father of the child and issues an “order of filiation.”

In New York, child support continues until the child turns 21, unless he or she gets married or joins the military first. Even then, the non-custodial parent must ask the court to end child support payments.

How Do I File For Child Support?

You can get general information and the application for child support from the New York State

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and the New York State Child Support Customer Service Helpline at 888-208-4485 provides answers to general child support questions.

The Child Support Enforcement Unit in New York can also help with:

  • Locating a noncustodial parent or possible father;
  • Establishing paternity (legal fatherhood) for a child born to unmarried parents;
  • Filing court paperwork to begin or modify an order of support;
  • Collecting and distributing support payments, or enforcing support obligations; and
  • Legal services.

However, if you are still on speaking terms with your ex-spouse, you both can waive the basic child support obligations by writing your own child support agreement. Both parents must agree to go around the child support guidelines and the agreement won’t take effect until the court approves it.

How Much Child Support Will I Get?

While child support includes living expenses like food, clothing, health insurance and medical costs, it can also include educational expenses, and childcare services. Besides future support payments, you may also owe support back to the time your child was born.

New York uses a standard guideline to determine child support based on how much the parents earn in a year and how many kids are involved. After accounting for deductions like Medicare, Social Security, and New York City tax the court multiplies the combined income of both parents by a certain percentage depending on the number of children they have:
17% for one child

  • 25% for two children
  • 29% for three children
  • 31% for four children
  • at least 35% for five or more children.

That total is then split between the two parents, depending on their percentage of the combined income. This is complicated so an example might help:

Angela and Bob were deeply in love when they had their children, Christine and David. Bob makes $150,000 per year on Wall Street, while Angela earns $50,000 from her cupcake shop. Under the guidelines, if Angela keeps the kids, Bob pays $37,500 per year: their combined income of $200,000, times 25% for 2 children, times his 75% share of the combined income.

If the combined income is less than $141,000, the court usually applies the formula. If the combined income is more, the court could consider other factors when deciding the full child support obligation.

Can I Change My Child Support Order?

Either spouse can ask the court for a change in child support payments if there is a substantial change in circumstances. You will need to file a petition with the same court that ordered the payments in the first place. Only a judge can change what you owe, even if you have an agreement with the other parent. The court will normally allow a modification of the original child support order is over three years old or either parent’s income has changed by at least 15% since the original order.

What If The Other Parent Doesn’t Pay Child Support?

If you’re having trouble collecting child support from your ex, you can contact the New York Support Collection Unit at (212) 226-7125 or the New York County Child Support Helpline 1-888-208-4485. Both parents should know that visitation and custody issues are distinct from child support issues. A parent may not withhold visitation rights if the other parent does not pay child support. At the same time, if you and your ex are having visitation issues you must still pay child support. If a parent doesn’t make the required payments, the child support enforcement agency can take money from your tax refund or bank accounts, suspend your driver's license, and notify credit agencies about your debt. You can also be sentenced to jail if you don’t make child support payments.

Additional Help

Dealing with a former spouse over child support can be difficult, and having an attorney may make the process easier. You can consult with an experienced family law attorney or find free legal aid in New York. If you’d like to see more general information on this topic, you can visit FindLaw’s child support law section.

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