Settling Disputes Related to Child Support

Under New York law, children are eligible to receive support up until age 21, with only a few statutory exceptions. Child support in New York State is governed by the Child Support Standards Act (or CSSA for short). According to the CSSA, the noncustodial parent may be ordered to pay a certain percentage of their income depending upon the number of children the parties have together. For one child, the statute provides that a party would pay 17% of their gross income, before taxes, but after deducting Fica and Medicare; 25% for two children; 29% for three children; 31% for four children; and no less than 35% for five or more children. In more complicated circumstances where each parent has one or more children, child support is determined by looking at each parent’s household with each party responsible for child support for the children in the other party’s custody. The parties are free, however, to stipulate to pay a greater or lesser amount of child support by stipulation, so long as very specific statutory language is included in the stipulation, making it clear that the parties are aware of what the child support amount would have been under the CSSA and they provide an adequate reason for deviating from the statutory amount.

In addition to basic child support as determined above, the CSSA also requires parents to contribute their proportional share of certain add-on expenses in addition to the basic child support, including: health insurance premiums for the children; unreimbursed and uncovered healthcare expenses; educational expenses of the children; and reasonable childcare expenses necessary for the custodial parent to work or receive training for work. In addition to these expenses, the Court may order parties to contribute to the reasonable college expenses of the subject children. Where the Court does so, the Court allows a noncustodial parent to deduct, dollar for dollar, any money he spends on college room and board from the basic child support payments he makes with regard to the child going to college. Parents should be aware that if a child turns 21 prior to completing college, the Court has no authority to order a parent to contribute to college expenses beyond the child’s 21st birthday, unless the parties have agreed to do so.

Both the Supreme Court and the Family Court have jurisdiction over child support matters. Such matters may be brought as part of a divorce action, or by itself. The enforcement and/or modification of support orders are governed by statute as well as years of case decisions which are binding on the court. Reluctant payors face the loss of a driver’s (or other) license, and possible incarceration where a court finds that they willfully refused to obey a child support order. Persons who under-report income or are paid “off the books” can have income “imputed” to them. In recent years, the law has also changed to provide that a party is entitled to a modification of child support every three years or 15 percent change in income, unless they have expressly opted out of this statutory basis for modification of child support. Where the parties have reached a compromise child support amount in consideration of certain equitable distribution agreements contained in a divorce agreement, parties should be careful to opt out of the three-year or 15 percent basis for child support modification, or they may lose the benefit of the bargain they make due to poor draftsmanship of a settlement agreement. This is why legal representation is so very important.

Preparation, investigation, and the subpoena of financial records may be required in order to obtain a fair and reasonable order. Our firm will walk you through the process to reach a written settlement, or, if necessary, a trial. Mr. Mangi and Mr. Graham have both had extensive experience in trying child support matters in both Supreme Court and Family Court. Both partners have also lectured other attorneys on child support issues through the Nassau County Bar Association.

Whether you are seeking or paying child support, the family lawyers of Mangi & Graham, LLP can help you settle your dispute. Contact us to book a free consultation to go over your options.