When couples get divorced, it disrupts the family and deeply affects the care of minor children produced by the marriage. For this reason, the parties will usually seek the assistance of a court to help determine custody of the children involved and how financial support for the children will be provided.
How is Child Support Calculated?
In New York, the courts take a dim view of parents neglecting their financial responsibilities toward their children. For this reason, strict laws determining what is appropriate have been enacted. The laws establish percentages upon which child support is determined for every family, ensuring that family courts are fair across the board.
In determining child support, the court looks at the income of both parents or guardians and deducts the predetermined percentage. For instance, child support for one child would be equivalent to %17 of the total income for both parents. Two children would require 25% and three would cost the divorced couple 29% of their combined income. For larger families with four children, the cost of child support would be equivalent to 31% of the parents’ combined income, while five or more children will cost the couple a minimum of 35% of their total income.
While this set of equations is standard, there are allowances that permit the courts to deviate from the predetermined variables. For instance, the court will look at all of the financial resources of both parents and the children to determine if child support payments should be adjusted. Additionally, the parents may be asked to contribute more support for children with health conditions or special developmental needs. Even through the divorce and the aftermath, the child’s standard of living must be maintained, so child support payments will reflect that goal.
The non-custodial parent may also ask for some relief, if he or she is also supporting children from another relationship. This may reduce that parent’s burden, so that all of the children involved will be able to maintain an appropriate standard of living. Similarly, the court will look at other contributions of each parent. For instance, providing a tutor or paying for extracurricular activities may be considered in determining how much each parent must contribute toward the support of the child.
The Cost of Living Can Affect Child Support
The courts also recognize that the cost of living can affect how much a dollar can buy and may respond to requests for an increase of child support on this basis. The custodial parent may enlist the help of an attorney to request an increase in child support payments from the other parent through a court procedure. When this request is made, a judge will look at the current payments in relation to the most recent cost of living increases, which will also be supplied by the plaintiff.
The statistics are provided by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of concern to the family court judge is the change in the annual average of the consumer price index. Where this change represents a 10% spike or higher, the judge may determine that the request for more child support is warranted.
The cost of living increase can be contested, if either parent or the support collection unit contests to the order within 35 days of its issuance. The objection must be made in writing and, therefore, may be best drafted by an experienced family law attorney. Once the objection has been filed, the increase in child support will be postponed, pending the outcome of a hearing. The court is required to set a date for the hearing within 45 days of the objection having been filed, so the delay in making the determination for the increased child support will be minimized.
During the hearing, proof showing the cost of living changes must be provided to both sides. The court may also use this hearing as an opportunity to ensure that the child has health insurance coverage and, if that’s not the case, the non-custodial parent may see an increase that also reflects that consideration. If the court does reinforce the cost of living increase, the adjusted child support payments will be prorated from the time at which the order was initially intended to take effect.
While child support can be confusing for the layperson, experienced family court lawyers can help either parent understand his or her rights. While the welfare of the child is the court’s primary concern, there are factors that may mitigate your responsibility. Seeking out a legal advocate can help you do what’s right for your child and for yourself.
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