Child Support – What Is It?

Parents are charged with the obligation to support their children. The Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) provides a formula by which parents’ presumptive child support obligations can be determined. Child support obligations may be imposed by a court or agreed upon by the parents by written agreement.

The CSSA formula provides that child support obligations should be calculated in accordance with the following formula:

    1. Each of the parties’ income must be determined. Income is defined as gross (total) income as should have been or should be reported in the most recent federal income tax return, plus any income received from the following sources which is not reflected in the most recent income tax return, including, but not limited to:
      • investment income reduced by sums expended in connection with such investment;
      • amount of income or compensation voluntarily deferred and income received, if any, from the following sources:
        • workers’ compensation
        • disability benefits
        • unemployment insurance benefits
        • social security benefits
        • veterans benefits
        • pensions and retirement benefits
        • fellowships and stipends
        • annuity payments

The court may also attribute or impute income to either party from other resources that may be available to the parent, including, but not limited to:

      • non-income producing assets
      • meals, lodging, memberships, automobiles or other perquisites that are provided as part of compensation for employment to the extent that such perquisites constitute expenditures for personal use, or which expenditures directly or indirectly – confer personal economic benefits
      • fringe benefits provided as part of compensation for employment
      • money, goods, or services provided by relatives and friends;
      • an amount imputed as income based upon the parent’s former resources or income, if the court determines that a parent has reduced resources or income in order to reduce or avoid the parent’s obligation for child support.

In order to compute the parent’s income, the following deductions may be deducted from gross income to the extent they are not reflected in the most recent income tax return:

      • any depreciation deduction greater than depreciation calculated on a straight-line basis for the purpose of determining business income or investment credits
      • self employment deductions
      • unreimbursed employee business expenses except to the extent said expenses reduce personal expenditures
      • entertainment and travel allowances deducted from business income to the extent said allowances reduce personal expenditures
      • alimony or maintenance actually paid to a spouse not a party to the instant action pursuant to court order or validly executed written agreement
      • alimony or maintenance actually paid or to be paid to a spouse that is a party to the instant action pursuant to an existing court order or contained in the order to be entered by the court, or pursuant to a validly executed written agreement, provided the order or agreement provides for a specific adjustment, in accordance with this subdivision, in the amount of child support payable upon the termination of alimony or maintenance to such spouse
      • child support actually paid pursuant to court order or written agreement on behalf of any child for whom the parent has a legal duty of support and who is not subject to the instant action
      • public assistance
      • supplemental security income
      • New York city or Yonkers income or earnings taxes actually paid
      • Federal insurance contributions act (FICA) taxes actually paid.
    1. Once income of each parent is determined, the court will add together the parents’ incomes to ascertain the “combined parental income” upon which child support is based.
    2. The court will apply the “child support percentage” to the “combined parental income” up to $130,000.00. The statutory cap in New York for child support purposes is $130,000.00, but to the extent that the “combined parental income” exceeds $130,000.00, the court may, in its discretion, apply the child support percentage to some or all of the combined parental income exceeding the statutory cap.

“Child support percentage” means:

      • seventeen percent of the combined parental income for one child;
      • twenty-five percent of the combined parental income for two children;
      • twenty-nine percent of the combined parental income for three children;
      • thirty-one percent of the combined parental income for four children;
      • no less than thirty-five percent of the combined parental income for five or more children

The court, in applying the child support percentage to combined parental income over $130,000.00, must consider the following factors in determining how much, if any, income to which the child support percentage will be applied:

    • The financial resources of the custodial and non-custodial parent, and those of the child;
    • The physical and emotional health of the child and his/her special needs and aptitudes;
    • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage or household not been dissolved;
    • The tax consequences to the parties;
    • The non-monetary contributions that the parents will make toward the care and well-being of the child;
    • The educational needs of either parent;
    • A determination that the gross income of one parent is substantially less than the other parent’s gross income;
    • The needs of the children of the non-custodial parent for whom the non-custodial parent is providing support who are not subject to the instant action and whose support has not been deducted from income, and the financial resources of any person obligated to support such children, provided, however, that this factor may apply only if the resources available to support such children are less than the resources available to support the children who are subject to the instant action;
    • Provided that the child is not on public assistance (i) extraordinary expenses incurred by the non-custodial parent in exercising visitation, or (ii) expenses incurred by the non-custodial parent in extended visitation provided that the custodial parent’s expenses are substantially reduced as a result thereof;
    • Any other factors the court determines are relevant in each case.
  1. After the child support percentage is applied to the combined parental income, the parents’ shares are calculated, pro rata. In order to calculate each parents’ pro rata share, each parent’s income must be divided by the combined parental income, then multiplied by 100. This percentage is then applied to the sum derived from the application of the child support percentage to the combined parental income calculated in step 3 above. This calculation will produce each parent’s basic child support obligation. (Note: Although only the non-custodial parent must actually pay child support, the calculation of each parent’s share is a necessary step, and the custodial parent’s contribution is offset against the non-custodial parent’s contribution).
  2. In addition to the basic child support obligation, parents are obligated to contribute, pro rata, to their children’s additional expenses (“add-on expenses”), namely, health care plan and expenses, unreimbursed medical expenses, childcare expenses, and educational expenses.

Contact a Westchester Matrimonial attorney today to discuss your specific child support questions. Our experienced, skilled attorneys are well-versed in New York child support law and are waiting to answer your questions!

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