How Does a Judge Determine Child Support?

In New York, how does a judge determine child support?

Child support is money that is typically paid from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent (or, the parent with whom the child lives most of the time) to cover the expenses of caring for the child or children. This can include health insurance and medical/dental costs, education costs, food, clothing and other necessities, and even childcare if the custodial parent works outside the home. Williamson, Clune & Stevens, a family law firm in Ithaca, Syracuse and Elmira, can provide assistance when problems arise over the child support obligations of either parent.

In the State of New York, the family court bases child support calculations on a certain formula. However, this can be modified for any number of reasons, adding to the amount of child support to be paid, or reducing that amount. For example, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many non-custodial parents lost jobs or had their income severely curtailed. After an appeal was considered by the family courts, some child support amounts were reduced to reflect the change in that parent’s income level.

Calculating Child Support in New York State

In general terms, the family court will calculate the amount of child support based on the yearly income of both parents and the number of children in question. The current law sets a dividing line at $154,000. For parents whose combined income as reflected on their most current tax returns equal $154,000 or less, the family court follows these percentages:

  • 17% of the combined parental income for one child
  • 25% of the combined parental income for two children
  • 29% of the combined parental income for three children
  • 31% of the combined parental income for four children, and
  • no less than 35% of the combined parental income for five or more children.

(N.Y. Dom. Rel. § 240 (1-b)(b)(3))

In the court’s calculations using these percentages, they will add the income of both parents and multiply it by the appropriate child support percentage, based on the number of children. For example, if the non-custodial parent earns $60,000 per year and the custodial parent earns $40,000 per year, for a combined income of $100,000 per year, the calculations would be as follows if only one child is involved.

$100,000 x 17% (0.17) = $17,000 as the basic child support obligation.

Now, since the non-custodial parent earns 60% of the total yearly income for both parents ($60,000 out of the $100,000 total), he or she is responsible for 60% of the total child support obligation of $17,000, or in this case, $10,200 each year. Payments are usually assigned to be made monthly, so the non-custodial parent would pay the custodial parent $850 per month in child support.

Moreover, the family court may choose to add more to the basic child support obligation for some items, such as childcare costs or certain healthcare costs. These are typically prorated at the same percentages used to figure the basic support obligation. Education costs are another common expense that can be added by the courts.

For Income Over the Standard Threshold

If the combined parental income is more than $154,000 per year, the court may choose to use the earlier formula and percentages in its calculations, or it could use that only on the first $154,000 of income. How much of the remaining income to award as part of the child support obligation can depend on a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • Income and financial resources of the child and each parent
  • Tax burden on each spouse
  • Effects of the divorce on the child’s standard of living
  • Either parent’s educational needs
  • Any special needs of the child/children
  • Any income inequalities between the parents
  • Needs of any other children for whom the non-custodial parent is responsible

Help with Child Support and Other Family Law Needs in Upstate New York

As you can see, these calculations and determining factors can be quite complicated, and no two cases are alike. This is why you need the seasoned assistance and representation of Williamson, Clune & Stevens, a family law firm in Ithaca, Syracuse and Cortland. Divorce is difficult enough to handle, but ensuring the adequate care for your children can present its own unique problems.

Whether you are the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent, we know that you want the very best for your children. We do, too, and we can help. Contact Williamson, Clune & Stevens today for a consultation about your child support obligations and any difficulties that arise.