Both parents have a responsibility to provide financial support for their children but, in the aftermath of a divorce the primary burden often falls on the shoulders of one of the parents, based on factors such as each party’s income and resources and the arrangement for custody and visitation. Our child support lawyers NYC will help you to figure out the proper support obligations for your children.
If you are a parent who lives with your child, you are called a “custodial parent.” If you are a parent that lives apart from your child, you are called a “non-custodial parent.” In New York, non-custodial parents are obligated to pay child support and provide financial assistance for their children to custodial parents. When there is joint custody and children split their time equally between both parents, the court can still order one parent, usually the parent who earns more money, to pay child support to the other parent. Courts will also make adjustments of support to account for the joint custody situation.
Unless the child is on public assistance (PA or welfare), child support cases are typically handled in the Supreme Court if there is a divorce pending, and Family Court if the parents of a child are not married or there is no divorce pending. Our child support lawyers NYC routinely handle cases before both Supreme and Family courts.
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, is in jail, is in another state or even, in some cases, in another country. A non-custodial step-parent can only be ordered to pay child support if that support would prevent the step-child from needing public assistance or other assistance from the State. The obligation of a step-parent only lasts as long as his or her marriage to the child’s biological parent.
If a father has concerns about paternity, he can apply for an Order of Filiation, which establishes who is the legal father of a child. An Order of Filiation is not necessary if the father signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital. An Order of Filiation is also not necessary if the mother and father were married at any time, whether before or after the birth of the child. The fact that a man is listed on a child’s birth certificate does not make him the child’s legal father. Unless he is or was married to the child’s mother, or he signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity, an Order of Filiation is necessary for him to be the legal father. Once you get to Family Court, the father can either consent to the entry of the Order of Filiation or he can contest it. If the father contests paternity, the court can order blood and DNA tests. If the alleged father still contests paternity after the court receives the results of the tests, the case will be transferred from the Child Support Hearing Examiner to a Family Court Judge. If the tests indicate that the man is the father, they create a “rebuttable presumption of paternity.” This means that the court will find that the man is the father based on the test results, unless he can produce evidence showing that he is not the father. After a judge enters an Order of Filiation, it will be filed at the Putative Fathers Registry, which is a database in Albany maintained by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, and the father will be legally recognized. He will be able to seek custody of, or visitation with, the children, the children will be entitled to inherit from him when he dies, and the children will be entitled to Social Security benefits if he becomes disabled or dies. This process can be very complicated and our child support lawyers NYC can help you.
You can decide if you want to have your child support paid through the Support Collection Unit (SCU), which is an agency that will collect the child support payments from the non-custodial parent and then forward them to you. The SCU can also help you to enforce the child support order if the non-custodial parent does not pay. Even if you decide against using the SCU at the time that you petition for child support, you can always seek its services later.
The amount owed is calculated according to a law called the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA). Under the CSSA, non-custodial parents will be ordered to pay a percentage of their gross income, minus certain deductions, until the child reaches the age of 21. The most common deductions are for Social Security and Medicare taxes that they pay, and for New York City or Yonkers income tax that they pay. Also deductible is any child and spousal support that the non-custodial parent is already paying, under a prior court order or written agreement. The percentages 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. The non-custodial parents will also be ordered to cover the children on their health insurance plans, if one is available to them through their employment. The non-custodial parent must also pay a “pro rata” share of reasonable childcare expenses if the custodial parent needs childcare because she or he is working or attending school or a job-training program. (“Pro rata” means based on the non-custodial parent’s income, relative to the custodial parent’s combined parental income.)The non- custodial parent must also pay a pro rata share of the child’s unreimbursed health care expenses. Unreimbursed means not covered by insurance. The non-custodial parent may be ordered to pay a share of childcare expenses if the custodial parent needs childcare because they are looking for work. The non- custodial parent may also be ordered to pay a share of the child’s educational costs such as private school or college tuition. Our child support lawyers NYC are ready to assist you with calculating the child support properly and making sure you are paying the correct amount.
Usually, the obligation to pay child support starts when the custodial parent files for child support. The non-custodial parent might be ordered to pay reasonable expenses associated with pregnancy, and to pay a reasonable amount to cover the period from birth to when paternity is established. Also, HRA can collect child support from the time that the custodial parent begins receiving PA and for the costs of childbirth that were paid by Medicaid.
If the non-custodial parent is already paying child support pursuant to a court order or written agreement, the amount of support paid will be subtracted from his or her gross income before it is multiplied by the appropriate percentage.
Non-custodial parents might also argue that they should pay less than the CSSA amount because of the needs of the other children with whom they are living. For example, if the non-custodial parent is a father who lives with his new girlfriend and their new baby, he could argue that after he finishes making his child support payments for his older children he has no money left for the baby. The Hearing Examiner would then compare how much money was available to the new baby, that is, how much the father had left over after he made his child support payments, plus the father’s girlfriend’s income, with what was available to the older children (which would be the child support payments plus the mother’s income). If there was less available to the baby than to the older children, the Hearing Examiner might reduce the amount of child support the father had to pay.
A child support order can be changed if there is a significant change in circumstances. Such a change is called an “upward (or downward) modification.” If you are a custodial parent and you think that the non-custodial parent is making significantly more money than they were they were when you got the order, or if caring for your children has become significantly more expensive, or if you are a non-custodial parent and you are making significantly less money, you can go back to the Family Court that issued the original order and file for an upward or downward modification of the order. If you are the custodial parent and your children are not receiving PA and you have moved, you can file in the Family Court in the borough where you live now. If you are the non-custodial parent and you have moved, you have to either go to the Family Court that issued the order or the Family Court where the children live now, but you can ask to appear in court by phone if you cannot make the trip.
To find the best child support lawyers NYC for you, look for lawyers who can understand your child’s individual needs. Our attorneys know that this area of the law is fact-intensive because custody battles are decided on the basis of individual circumstances. Our support lawyers have courtroom experience presenting these sensitive cases by paying attention to each child’s unique situation. We help our clients develop and present their child custody issues effectively.