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New York State Child Support

12th January 2010
By Bret Well in Legal
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The amount of child support depends on the parents' income. For families where the combined income of both parents is under $120,000, the state of New York set Child Support guidelines. They are:

  • 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.

In reality, the only thing that matters is the income of the non-custodial parent, who must pay a certain percentage of their salary to the custodial parent. While in theory both parents must spend 17% (or 25%, 29%, 31%, etc.), since it is the non-custodial parent who gives money to the custodial parent, that's the only person whose income matters. If your annual salary is $50,000 and you have one child, you will pay $8,500 no matter whether the custodial parent is making $500,000 a year or nothing at all.

If you have two children with two different people, you must pay 17% for each child. Likewise, if you have two children each with two different people, you must pay 25% to each of the two parents of your four children. If you are already paying child support and another person is demanding child support for your other children, you may get credit for your present payments, thus reducing your child support burden.

Additionally, parents may be required to split other costs, such as medical expenses (including any co-pays required by the insurance company), baby-sitting, summer camp, private school and much more.

When permanent child support may not be issued immediately, the magistrate may issue temporary child support.

Once child support is set, payments may be paid directly to the custodial parent or to the Support Collections Unit ("SCU"). SCU will then send the money to the custodial parent. Payments may be directly withdrawn from a salary in some cases.

If a person does not pay child support, a "violation petition" may be filed. The petition may ask the court to take action against that party. A hearing is then held to decide whether the respondent is indeed in violation. The support magistrate may enforce the order by ordering the SCU to take the payments directly from the respondent's paycheck, by ordering the respondent to pay a lump sum to reduce the amount of money owed to the custodial parent, or by taking other steps to collect the money owed, such as suspending the respondents driver's, professional, and business licenses. Additionally, a jail sentence of up to six months may be imposed.

If there is a change in circumstances - such as job loss, increased or decreased salary - both parties may petition to modify the order. The party seeking a change in the order must file a modification petition containing a statement explaining the change in circumstances. The court then holds a hearing to consider changing the order.

It is very important to file to change the child support order if you lose all or part of your income. In New York state, arrears cannot be changed prior to the filing of the petition. That means that if you wait several months to file to change the order after you've lost your job, you will still be responsible for the ordered child support, even if you will have no way to pay. The magistrate will not be able to help you by relieving your responsibility for arrears prior to the filing of the petition, no matter the circumstances.
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