In 1989, New York passed the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA). The main purpose of this legislation was to establish minimum and meaningful standards of obligations on the premise that both parents share the responsibilities for child support. The CSSA brings a sense of uniformity and predictability with child support. Child support can be generally defined as the amount of money to be paid for the care and maintenance of an un-emancipated child. So what does this all mean? In sum, basic child support is the regular periodic payment by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. This does not include health care, childcare, and educational expenses. These obligations are commonly referred to as “add-ons” and are shared between the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent on a pro rata basis. (A percentage determined by each parties’ income.)
The question clients often ask is how much can I expect to pay or receive in child support? The procedure required by the guidelines which the Court will abide is as follows: First the Court will combine both parents’ income. A base line is used which generally changes on a yearly basis. The present statutory cap for child support is $154,000.00. In other words, the incomes will be combined but the Court will use $154,000.00 as a baseline in its calculations in the event the combination of salaries is greater than $154,000.00 (I will later explain what happens if the combined salary exceeds $154,000.00.) Once the salaries are combined, that number is multiplied by the statutory percentage which is determined by how many children there are in the marriage. (The percentages are: 17% for one child; 25% for two; 29% for three; 31% for four; 35% for five or more however, the Court has discretion when setting the percentage for five or more children.) Child support is then apportioned between the parents on a pro rata basis. However, pursuant to the Guideline, the only payment that is made is by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent.
In the event that the combined salaries are greater than $154,000.00, the same calculation is made, but the Court will then decide if there should be an additional award based upon income over the statutory cap. All calculations, are based on the parties’ most recent tax return. The starting point is the gross income minus FICA. If the paying spouse is also required to pay maintenance, then maintenance is subtracted from the gross salary.
Under the CSSA, the Court is to base its calculations on the parties’ tax returns. Distributions from pension and profit sharing plans are reportable as income on tax returns, and thus will be treated as income for CSSA purposes. Maintenance is to be deducted from the noncustodial parent’s income.
What happens if the CSSA brings you below the poverty level? If that happens, the basic child support obligation is $25.00 per month or the difference between the non-custodial parent’s income and the federal self-support reserve, whichever is greater.
Please note, that while the guidelines are a helpful tool in figuring out child support, this is only the beginning. Finally, remember that add-ons, such as health care, college, child care and the like must also be factored in. Maintenance, if not permanent can also change the amount paid in child support.