Under New York State law, both parents must financially support their children until the children turn 21 years old or become emancipated. Emancipation means that a child is living separately and independently from his or her parents, or is self-supporting.

If you are a parent who has legal custody of your child or are the parent with whom your child lives the majority of the time, you are called a “custodial parent.” The custodial parent is entitled to seek child support from the other parent who is called the “non-custodial parent.” Typically, this is accomplished through a Family Court proceeding in the county in which the children and the custodial parent reside. In the event that the parents are involved in a divorce, then the issue of child support will be handled in Supreme Court as part of the divorce proceeding.

Even when children split time equally between both parents, like spending one week with their mother and the next week with their father, a court will still require one parent, usually the parent who earns more money, to pay child support. In those instances, adjustments may be made to the amount of support required to be paid to account for the split time residency situation.

Any non-custodial parent can be ordered to pay child support. This is true even if the non-custodial parent has no contact with the child, is not working, is on disability or public assistance, in jail, in another state or even in another country.

The amount of child support owed by the non-custodial parent is calculated according to a law called the Child Support Standards Act, often referred to as the CSSA. Under the CSSA, the non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay a percentage of his or her gross income, minus certain deductions, until the child reaches 21 years of age. The most common deductions are for Social Security and Medicare taxes that he or she pays. Also deductible is any child support or spousal maintenance that the non-custodial parent is already paying pursuant to a prior court order or written agreement. The percentages of income to be paid for purposes of child support are: 17% for one child; 25% for two children; 29% for three children; 31% for four children; and at least 35% for five or more children.

In addition to this basic child support amount, a parent who has existing private health insurance coverage for the children through an employer will be required to continue coverage for the children, assuming the cost is reasonable. Expenses incurred for the children’s health insurance coverage, including unreimbursed healthcare expenses such as copays, which are not covered by health insurance, must be paid by the parents on a “pro rata” basis. Pro rata simply means in relation to income levels of the parents. For example, if the non-custodial parent makes $60,000 per year and the custodial parent makes $40,000 per year, then the non-custodial parent must pay 60% of the cost of the children’s health insurance and unreimbursed healthcare expenses and the custodial parent must pay the remaining 40% of those expenses. If neither parent has private health insurance coverage available at a reasonable cost, then the parents will be required to seek health insurance coverage for the children through a state subsidized plan.

When the custodial parent is working or going to school, necessary childcare costs are also divided between the parents on a pro rata basis and are added to the basic child support award. Similarly, if a custodial parent needs childcare while he or she is looking for work, then the non-custodial parent may be ordered to pay a pro rata share of those childcare expenses. Finally, both parents may also be required to pay a share of the children’s educational costs such as private school or college.

Child support matters can become rather complicated. If you are a parent who has questions relating to child support, contact one of our experienced Family Law attorneys at Trevett Cristo Law today.