divorce cases come with a great many complexities since so many issues may need to be addressed in a contested case. Even when the two parties amicably dissolve their marriage, attorneys for both spouses might still be required to negotiate and address financial matters and settlements. Parents who are divorcing in the Bronx or other areas within the state of New York often requires the litigation and negotiation skills of an experienced attorney to handle child support matters.
What is Child Support?
Most people maintain a general understanding of child support in the sense support refers to paying for the primary essentials related to care for a child. Food, clothing, and schooling would clearly fall under the category of essentials. Limiting child support to these commonly thought of essentials, however, would not be accurate. Child support frequently covers various other expenses related to the care of a child. Entertainment and health care costs are also taken into consideration when devising laws covering child support.
The laws of New York cover all the rules and requirements regarding child support payments. In this state, the non-custodial parent may be required to pay support until the child reaches the age of 21 unless the child is emancipated in some way.
Child Support Orders and Petitions
In family court, the judge may decree a child support order. As the name suggests, the order reflects a mandated requirement to pay child support. The order is anything but ambiguous. The amount of money required to pay as well as when and how often would be spelled out in the order.
Those in need of child support and lack an order must file a petition with the court. Doing so without the assistance of an attorney may prove regrettable. Working with an attorney who consistently handles child support petitions reduces the chances of delays and unfavorable decisions.
How is Child Support Determined in New York State?
Child support amounts are not arrived at in an arbitrary manner. Calculations are made based on a set percentage of combined income and the number of children. For one child, the percentage is 17. For two children, the percentage increases to 25. A child support calculation could work out in the following manner:
The combined income of two parents is $100,000. The two parents have one child. $17,000 is 17% of $100,000. The custodial parent earns $60,000 and the non-custodial parent earns $40,000. So, the non-custodial parent becomes obligated for 40% of $17,000. The specific dollar amount here would be $6,800.
The earning figures derive from gross income on a federal tax return. If there are questions deductions or inaccuracies on the tax return, a serious issue arises. The custodial parent’s lawyer steps in to address such things in court.
Failure to Pay Child Support
A child support order is a form of civil judgment. The judgment can be enforced in ways that a judgment from a lawsuit would be. A person who fails to pay child support may discover a lien has taken effect and money becomes automatically deducted from a paycheck. Failure to pay required child support may lead to a contempt of courtcharge. Such charges can be rather serious as fines and jail time may be levied against the parent who has not made child support payments.
The Serious Nature of Child Support
Compliance with child support orders and petitions is a serious matter that affects all parties. So, both parents should retain the best counsel to assist them in the entire process.
You never thought your marriage would end in divorce. That was something that happened to other people, but not to you. Unfortunately, it has happened. The prospect of making your way in the world without the person you once loved is unsettling. The fact that you must do so with children is even more daunting.
Your emotions concerning your divorce will be strong, but they need not be controlling. Despite the stress and strain that comes with breaking permanently with the person who was your life partner, there are crucial decisions to make. The most important of those are about your children.
You must take action that will ensure that your children do not suffer emotionally or materially as a result of the divorce. The only way to guarantee the latter is with child support. If you have been granted sole custody of your children or have agreed to share custody with your ex, the enforcement of the child support order is essential to making sure your kids remain in a stable and secure environment.
It is important for you to understand that the original child support order is not permanently fixed. The principle of payments is based on the circumstances of both parent and child. Changed circumstances are an adequate basis for changing the amount of money that the non-custodial parent should be made to pay.
The basic child support obligation is calculated as follows (the percentages refer to the amount of the non-custodial parent’s total income):
– 1 child = 17%
-2 children = 25%
-3 children = 29%
-4 children = 31%
-5 or more children = 35%
As your children grow older, the amount of money needed to sustain them will increase. Health complications, the need to maintain a standard of living that they have gotten used to, educational opportunities that they were on track to take advantage of—any number of these can serve as a compelling reason to change the child support order.
A significant change in the finances of your former spouse may also compel you to change the child support order. You would hope that the mother or father of your child wants what is best for them. You would think that no matter what other differences the two of you have the well-being and prosperity of your children is something you can both agree on.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some non-custodial parents refuse to report an increase in their total income, even when the costs of raising their children continue to climb. Not only will they avoid further scrutiny regarding the child support order, they will not increase the amount of money they spend on their children on their own initiative.
If you know or strongly suspect that your ex is holding out your children, then you must take decisive action against them. It is not about you; it is about your children. And you must do all that you can to look after their welfare.
In general, the court will look at the following factors when deciding whether to alter the child support order:
-financial resources of both parents
-physical and emotional health of the child
-child’s standard of living
-tax consequences of the parties
-non-monetary contributions of the parents
-educational needs of the child
-needs of the non-custodial parent’s other children
Your ex may try to make the argument that your changed financial circumstances, if they have been for the better, absolves them of all responsibility for increasing the amount of money they pay. No such point or principle of law exists, and you should not be deterred from your effort to get your ex to do right by your children.
Contacting a lawyer should be your first step. A lawyer who specializes in child support law can provide you with the expertise you need to put your case before a judge and get the child support order changed. A child support lawyer is equipped to deploy a range of tools and tactics for this purpose.
They will be able to gather evidence, including valid records and testimony, to prove that your ex is not paying the amount of child support they should. They will also be able to make the case that the mounting costs of raising your children require more financial support from their other parent.
Lawyers who specialize in child support cases have seen the many ploys and techniques that non-custodial parents use to avoid paying child support. They have the insight and experience to get you and your children justice.
Supporting your children until they turn 21 years old is a legal responsibility. That obligation could manifest itself in a court order. If you’re being sued for child support, you may need assistance on how to respond if you don’t believe you’re the parent or you’re concerned about your financial ability to pay support.
Are You the Father?
If you’re facing a lawsuit for paternity or for child support, you might contest the fact that you’re the father. If so, our bronx child support lawyers can advise you on getting a blood test to exclude you as the father. This may be especially important if the mother gave birth during your marriage. The law presumes that you’re the father of a child born during your marriage.
Where you don’t question paternity, you might consider filing an acknowledgement of that fact with the court. While this document may subject you to a child support obligation, it also affords you rights as a parent. Specifically, you can seek visitation rights and even custody of the child. Further, acknowledgment can save you the time and money that you otherwise would spend in a paternity lawsuit. Note that once you sign the acknowledgment, it carries the same weight as a court order declaring you the father and undoing the admission is very difficult.
Establishing the Amount
Assuming you’re a non-custodial parent, the issue turns to how much the court will order you to pay per month.
So long as your income, as defined by Section 240 of the Domestic Relations Law, does not exceed $143,000, your monthly obligation consists of a percentage of income. The portion depends on the number of children for whom you must pay support to the custodian parent. For one child, it is 17 percent of you and the custodial parent’s combined monthly income. Your obligation is one-fourth of combined income if you have two children, 29 percent for three children and 31 percent for four. Should you and the other parent have five or more, the amount comes to at least 35 percent of the combined monthly income.
For combined incomes above $143,000, the court may, but doesn’t have to, deviate from the percentage guidelines.
If your income falls below the Federal Poverty Level, your child support will be set at $25 per month and responsibility for what your behind will not exceed $500. Where a non-custodial parent makes less than the New York Self-Support Reserve, monthly child support is capped at $50 per month.
In the child support calculation, the court won’t stop at your employment income. Other sources include workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, disability payments, veterans benefits, pensions, retirements, stipends, fellowships and annuities. Even alimony paid to you by the other parent counts.
Further, the court could “impute” income to you on a finding that you have suppressed your income in bad faith. That is, you have become unemployed or reduced your income to avoid paying child support. Attribution of income can also apply to, for instance, supposed business or employment expense reimbursements that you appropriate to your personal use.
Modification of Child Support
Should you lose a job or take a significant pay cut, our bronx child support lawyers can help you lower the child support payment. To get a reduction, you must show the court that your circumstances have substantially changed since the court originally entered the order or last changed it.
If you experience a significant increase in your income, the custodial parent may ask a court to raise your monthly support payment. Turning down pay raises or higher paying jobs may not prove to be an effective strategy, as a court might treat that higher potential as your actual income in modifying the order upward.
A court can also modify child support as each of your children reaches age 21. Remember that the percentage of the parents’ combined income turns on the number of children you must support. Further, if you become the custodial parent, then you may become the recipient parent and the other becomes responsible for child support.
Enforcement of Child Support
Jail constitutes only one of the potential enforcement methods the custodial parent or a child support enforcement agency can employ. Lottery winnings, tax refunds and bank accounts can also become sources for catching up and staying current on child support. Those who fall behind may lose their drivers’ licenses and have the delinquencies appear on credit reports.
If a parent or enforcement agency wants to hold you in contempt, you may defend on the grounds you are not able to pay child support. Layoffs, disabilities and other reasons for not having income, through no fault of your own, may negate a finding that you willfully avoided child support. They might also afford you a basis to ask for a reduction of your obligation.
While you’re under a child support order, don’t stop paying simply because the custodial parent obstructs or denies visitation. One of our lawyers can help you try to get visitation or custody or handle other child support issues you may encounter.