Child Support in New York

Under New York State law, child support means "a sum to be paid pursuant to a court order...decree, or valid agreement between the parties for care, maintenance and education of any unemancipated child under the  of age of twenty-one years."

The amount is governed by the Child Support Standards Act, using a formula applied to the income of the parents. For total parental income (TPI) of 143,000 or below, the formula is applied at:

  • 17% for one child, ($24,310)

  • 25% two children, 29% for three children

  • 31% for four children

  • 35% for five children or more.

Courts may apply the percentages to income above the 143,000, and in some cases use up to $300,000 of TPI. Child support amount is calculated as a percentage of total parental income (as described above) and then prorated to the noncustodial parent's proportion of income to that total amount.

For example a noncustodial parent who is the sole breadwinner earning $50,000 per year will pay child support for two children at 12,500, or 25% of income. If noncustodial parent earns 40,000 and the custodial parent earns 20,000 for a combined rental income of 60,000 the noncustodial parent will still pay 25% of her income (40,000 times 25% equals $10,000 per year.)

Applying the formula may not be practical for any number of reasons. The statutory factors for determining an appropriate amount of child support include:

  • the financial resources of the parents and child

  • the physical and emotional health of the child and his or her special needs and aptitudes

  • standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage or household not been dissolved

  • tax consequences

  • non-monetary contributions that the parents will make toward the care and well-being of the child

  • educational needs of either parent

  • a determination that the gross income of one parent is substantially less than the other parent

  • the needs of the children of the noncustodial parent for whom he or she is providing support

  • extraordinary expenses incurred by the noncustodial parent

  • any other factor court court determines the relevant

The court may, in its discretion deviate from the formula based on a result that is unjust or inappropriate to the needs of the child.

The court must then state the reasons for that deviation based on the factors provided by statute. An agreement deviating from the child-support formula must also state the reasons for the deviation. 

What is 'income'? Almost anything.

Income includes both parents' gross income deducting social security, medicare and New York City in Yonkers taxes, to arrive at an adjusted gross income (not to be confused with AGI on the federal tax returns).

"Income" is broadly defined to include: investment income, income or compensation voluntarily deferred and income received, from the following: 

  • workers' compensation,

  • disability benefits,

  • unemployment insurance benefits,

  • social security benefits,

  • veterans benefits,

  • pensions and retirement benefits,

  • fellowships and stipends,

  • annuity payments, 

  • life insurance policies;

  • discharges of indebtedness;

  • recovery of bad debts and delinquency amounts;

  • gifts and inheritances;  and

  • lottery winnings,

The court may also 'impute' income from:

  • 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,

  • imputed 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;

  • If not already included in gross income...the following self-employment deductions attributable to self-employment carried on by the taxpayer:

    • any depreciation deduction greater than depreciation calculated on a straight-line basis for the purpose of determining business income or investment credits, and

    • entertainment and travel allowances deducted from business income to the extent said allowances reduce personal expenditures;

What deductions are allowable? 

The most common deductions allowed are:

  • New York city or Yonkers income or earnings taxes actually paid, and

  • FICA taxes actually paid (social security and medicare)

Other deductions include:

  • unreimbursed employee business expenses except to the extent said expenses reduce personal expenditures,

  • maintenance actually paid to a spouse not a party to the instant action pursuant to court order or validly executed written agreement,

  • maintenance actually paid or to be paid to a spouse who 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,

  • 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, and

  • federal insurance contributions act (FICA) taxes actually paid.

The "self-support reserve” is currently $8,065 (updated each year) of remaining income after the child support formula is applied - below which the obligation to pay child support is capped at $25 per month.

The parents may waive child support based on the formula so long as the agreement details the calculations and presumptive amount of child support under the formula, and the parties knowingly and expressly waive their rights to support under the formula. Any agreements resulting in a lower amount of child support than that provided by the CSSA, must justify the deviation based on the relevant statutory factors.

Unless expressly waived, either parent may apply for modification of child support under the following circumstances: 

  • 15% change in income of either party,

  • substantial change in circumstances (even if waived)

  • or three years since the last order