In New York State, there are two components to child support: a basic one and an added one.
The basic component of child support is calculated by looking at the cap of the parents’ combined annual income (this cap changes every two years). The term “income” applies to the gross total income, plus benefits (unemployment or retirement benefits for example) and investment income. Once the parents’ incomes have been added, the total is multiplied by a percentage. This percentage is based on the number of children involved, and it ranges from 17% to 35%, with a higher percentage for more children. The parent who does not have custody pays a percentage of this amount to the custodial parent. If the combined income is higher than the cap, the court will decide if there should be more support for the income that goes beyond the cap.
If you’re the custodial parent and your combined income surpasses the cap, it’s possible that you can get extra child support if specific factors are established, called “Paragraph F” factors. If these factors are proven, the court may either continue with their regular formula of 17% or more, or they may adjust how much will be added on to the child support.
Paragraph F factors may include:
• Financial resources of both parents
• The standard of living of the child if the parents did not separate
• The child’s health
• Wide gap between one parent’s earnings and the other’s earnings
• The child’s aptitude or special needs (for example, learning disabilities)
• Tax issues
• The needs of children that the non-custodial parent is supporting
• Educational needs of the parents
• International travel expenses
An example of this is as follows: if the custodial parent is going to school, they may have to pay for child care expenses to take care of the child while the parent is in class. The court would determine what a reasonable amount is to pay for child care. This amount would then be prorated based on how much each parent contributes to the shared income total. Then, how the parents will share these child care expenses will be added on to the child support agreement.
Sometimes, a court will have to decide which additional costs should be part of the child support agreement. For example, if the custodial parent decides to send their child to private school, signs them up for extracurricular activities and then sends them to camp during the summer, the court will determine if there should be an add-on to the child support agreement, and if so, how much that should be.
Typically, add-ons are granted for things like child care if the custodial parent has to work or attend school; if there are medical expenses or health insurance that has to be paid for; or if there are educational expenses. Additional expenses, such as extracurricular activities or activities the child engages in on the weekends or during the summer, are not usually added on to the support agreement. These are considered leisure expenses, and it’s presumed that they can be taken out of the current child support amount.
Two parents who are not married and who are not living together have a son, though the father does not know about the pregnancy or the son at first. When the father learns he has a child, the couple decided to live together, and the arrangement lasts for just a few months. During this time, they discussed sending their child to private school. When the child was just a few months old, the mother decided to move her and the child out of the father’s home. The mother opted to send the child to private school, like she’d discussed with the father.
During a child support hearing, the mother said that the father was the one who wanted the child to go to private school. She also said that the child had been enrolled in swim lessons, but that these lessons ceased when the parents separated.
The court determined that the father’s income was below the cap. The mother said that the father had additional income that he didn’t disclose, but when the court tried to find this income, they couldn’t. Since the mother did not have any income, the combined income was only the father’s. Since there was one child, the amount of child support was set at 17% of the father’s income, which would be paid to the mother.
Additionally, the court required that the father pay for 100% of the child’s tuition at the private school, which became and add-on expense to the child support agreement. However, the trial court didn’t clarify why the father would have to pay for private school, especially when he didn’t have a high enough income level to pay for child support and the entire tuition. This was a deviation from the norm, and it should have been explained to the parents.
Child Support Help
Child support issues can be lengthy, difficult to understand and life-altering. If you feel that you should be receiving more child support, or if you think that you’re unfairly paying too much, contact our Long Island divorce lawyers today. We’ll help you understand child support and find the best way for you to proceed with negotiations.
Child support statutes in the State of New York stipulates that both parents are legally responsible for the financial support of children until the child reaches 21 years of age. The intent of these laws is to assure that children continue to benefit from the incomes and retain the standard of living provided by the combined efforts of both parents after a separation.
Child support in New York contains two components:
• Basic Support- This calculation is based on the combined income of both parents. The combined income is capped and then multiplied by the percentage that is based on the total number of children. This basic support is determined to cover the expenses of the custodial parent pertaining to housing, feeding, clothing, and other basic living provisions for the child. The non-custodial parent is responsible for making basic child support payments to the custodial parent.
• Add on expenses include expenses incurred in caring for children that are needed so that custodial parents are allowed to work. These expenses can include both medical expenses and insurance, as well as childcare expenses. A particular parents contribution to add-on expenses is proportionate to income. Add-on support can be paid from parent to parent or can be used to pay for services directly, for example, payment to a doctor for a bill for the child.
As mentioned above, for purposes of calculating basic support a total income cap has been put into place. This cap which is $143,000 for the year of 2016 is adjusted on a yearly basis.
When the combined income of parents exceeds the cap of $143,000, additional child support may be ordered it a certain set of factors known as ‘paragraph F’ factors are established. In these situations, the court can option to apply the original percentages based on the number of children to the income that exceeds the cap, or an adjustment can be specifically made to the add-on component based on specific factors to the case.
Factors that can be taken into consideration are:
• The financial resources of both parents
• The child’s health along with any special needs or abilities
• Consequences regarding taxes
• The parents’ educational needs
• The standard of living enjoyed by child when parents are together
• A disparity in gross income of parents
• The needs of additional children supported by non-custodial parents
• Any extraordinary expenses for child or parent
An example scenario as outlined by state statutes provides for custodial parents that incur child care expenses in order to facilitate the attendance of work or school, the court is allowed to make the determination expenses for childcare are to be prorated in identical proportion as individual parental income is to the combined income of the parents. This pro rata calculation of child care expenses are added to the basic component of child support and are to be stated separately and considered to be an add-on.
A case that provides some insight is Michael JD vs. Caroline EP. An appellate court assigned to this matter considered whether a lower court had acted properly in its instruction to a father to provide add-on support by way of tuition to a private school and extracurricular activities for weekends and summer. The court determined that state law outlines precisely the conditions necessary to precipitate the court’s determination that additional costs are to be paid above that which is considered basic child support.
It was determined by the appellate court that extracurricular activities for weekends and summer were leisure activities to be covered by basic child support. If wishing to deviate from standard procedure and require a parent to pay for these leisure activities, the lower court is required by law to conduct an analysis for the presence of paragraph F factors. The court is also required to explain this analysis and how it resulted in a procedural deviation.
The appellate court found that in the observed case, the parents were unmarried and not maintaining a home together when the child was born. The couple did live together for four months once the father was made aware of the child’s existence. The parents had expressed an expectation that their child would attend a private school. The mother and child left the residence with the father when the child was eight months of age. The mother explained through trial testimony that the father told her the child would attend private school and have enrolled the child in private swimming lessons. The mother also explained that once separating with the father the lessons ended.
The father’s income was determined to be $128,741. 40 and since the mother’s income was assumed to be zero, the father’s income is also the combined total income and 17% of this amount was calculated as the amount the father would contribute as basic child support payments. It was also determined by the trial court that the total cost of tuition for the child’s private school education be required as an add-on expense.
The appellate court decided that the trial court did not provide sufficient explanation as to why the father was ordered to pay for the child’s school tuition.
If you and a co-parent are participating in custody proceedings that involve a combined income that exceeds the income cap for basic child support, it may be a good idea to contact the Long Island Divorce Lawyers.