Every child is entitled to be supported by both parents. If the parents do not live together, the parent the child lives with is called the custodial parent, and the other parent is the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent must pay child support to the custodial parent.
New York State has set forth child-support guidelines. The basic support rule is that the non-custodial parent must pay 17% of her or his income for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, and higher. Income is defined as gross salary or self-employment income. It also includes any income from investments, real estate, etc. A few things are then deducted from the sum of your income: local (not state) taxes, Medicare and social security payments. The result, multiplied by the appropriate percentage above, is the basic child-support amount.
For example, suppose a non-custodial parent earns $110,000 per year. And let’s say the deductions come to $10,000, so the adjusted income = $100,000. If that parent has 2 children, the basic child support amount is $100,000 x 25% = 25,000 per year, or $2,083 per month.
In addition to the basic amount, the non-custodial parent may be ordered to pay for a part of the extra expenses related to the child, also called “add-ons.” Some examples may include child care, tuition, clothing, medical expenses that are not already covered by health insurance, games, computers, trips, and music or sports activities.
The court will gather income information for both parents and calculate the total parental income and the percentage of the total that each parent contributes. The non-custodial parent’s share of the cost of the add-ons is then determined using that percentage.
For instance, continuing the example above, let us suppose that the custodial parent earns, after adjustments, $50,000 per year. Remembering that the non-custodial parent’s income is $100,000, we calculate that the total parental income is $150,000, with the custodial parent’s share being 33.3% and the non-custodial parent’s share being 66.7%. Therefore, the non-custodial parent must pay 66.7% of the add-ons. So if the child-care expenses come to $1,000 per year, the non-custodial parent will pay $667 and the custodial parent will pay $333.
What if the parents have joint custody?
If the child stays with a parent any more than exactly 50% of the time, the parent who has the children more is considered to be the custodial parent. If the parents actually have the children exactly half of the time, the parent who has the greater income is considered to be the parent who must pay child support.
Why don’t they just base it on the child’s actual expenses?
Some of the child’s expenses are discrete, like clothing and toys that only that child will use. Other expenses are lumped in with the rest of the family expenses, like food. And then there are expenses related to having another person in the family – such as the need for a bigger apartment, the extra cost of utilities, etc. In addition, public policy demands that the child should not be punished for the parents’ separation or divorce. Therefore, the child should live in as close a manner as possible to her or his standard of living before the divorce.
Are There any Variations to the Child Support Amount?
Yes. The statute includes several reasons why a judge might order an amount of child support that varies from the standard amount. These include: The financial resources of the parents
- The child’s special needs, if any
- The standard of living the child would have had if living with both parents
- The tax consequences to the parents
- The non-monetary contributions made by each parent
- The educational needs of either parent
- The discrepancy between the incomes of the parents
- The needs of other children for whom the non-custodial parent is responsible
- Any extraordinary expenses involved in visitation of the child
- Any other factor the court may consider important
Parents can decide together to vary the child support amount based on the above factors, as well. However, the custodial parent cannot waive child support altogether. The minimum amount the non-custodial parent must pay, even if she or he is not working, is $25 per month.
Is Child Support Taxable?
No. It is neither taxable to the payee nor tax-deductible to the payor.
Do I have to Pay Child Support if I am not Seeing my Child?
Yes. Child support and visitation are separate. You must pay child support even if you do not have visitation with your child. And you have a right to visit your child even if you are not paying child support.
Can I Surrender my Parental Rights to Avoid Paying Child Support?
No. Each child is entitled to be supported by two parents, if both are alive. You cannot surrender your parental rights to your child unless she or he will be adopted by another adult.
These are the standard guidelines used by the courts to determine child support. If you are mediating a divorce or separation agreement, you may come up with a different arrangement, but it is important to understand how the standard amount is calculated.