Who Must Pay Child Support in New York
Child support is a payment from one parent to the other to cover a child’s basic living expenses and other needs. Child support is typically ordered when parents separate or go through a divorce in New York.
Both parents are financially responsible for supporting their children in New York until the child turns 21.
Generally, the parent or person who lives with the child more than half the time can get child support from the other parent. If the child lives with each parent equally, there could still be a child support order if one parent earns more than the other. It would provide health care expenses, daycare, and support to the parent with the lower income.
How is Child Support Determined in New York?
In most cases, child support is calculated based on each parent’s annual income and the number of children the parents are responsible for.
Courts determine the gross income reported on the parent’s most recent federal income tax returns to determine income. If the parents filed a joint return, they must each prepare a form that shows their gross individual income.
Several items are then subtracted from gross income, such as:
- Alimony paid (or to be paid) under a court order
- Child support paid for a child from a previous relationship
- Unreimbursed business expenses
- Public assistance
- Supplemental security income (SSI)
- FICA (Medicare and Social Security) taxes paid
After a net income amount is determined and incomes are combined, the non-custodial parent will pay a percentage of their income per child, known as a “child support percentage.” Those percentages are:
- 17% of the combined parental income for one child
- 25% of the combined parental income for two children
- 29% of the combined parental income for three children
- 31% of the combined parental income for four children, and
- no less than 35% of the combined parental income for five or more children.
Then the noncustodial parent’s share of child care, medical, and educational expenses are added to the income percentage amount. The combined amount, percentage of income plus share of expenses, is the basic child support amount.
For the combined parental income amount of over $167,000 (current as of 2022), the court may consider the standard guideline percentages or use other factors to set the full child support obligation.
After a figure is determined, the court may decide whether to deviate from the guideline child support amount.
How do I pay my child support?
A parent can pay child support to the Child Support Enforcement Unit through the NYS Child Support Processing Center in Albany). Parents can also agree to payments through the Child Support Enforcement Unit when the court orders child support.
Read More: Divorce Laws in New York
Deviating from Guideline Child Support in New York
If the combined income of both parents is more than a certain amount each year, the judge may elect to deviate from guideline child support.
They can use the standard formula or use the formula for only the amount of combined income up to the threshold and then decide how much of the remainder to award based on these factors:
- the financial resources of the child and each parent
- the child’s physical and emotional health and any special needs and aptitudes
- the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if not for the divorce
- the tax consequences to each spouse
- the non-monetary contributions that the parents will make toward the care and well-being of the child
- the educational needs of either parent
- whether one parent’s gross income and resources is substantially less than the other parent’s gross income
- the needs of any other children of the non-custodial parent for whom that parent is providing support
Is there a low-income obligation?
If the noncustodial parent’s income is at or below the federal poverty level for a single person, the presumptive support amount is $25 per month. When income is at or below the self-support reserve (135% of the federal poverty level) but above the federal poverty level, the presumptive support amount is $50 per month.
What about Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)?
Every two years, accounts are reviewed to determine whether an order is eligible for a COLA. An order is eligible for COLA when it is at least two years old and the sum of the average annual percentage change in the CPI-U is equal to or greater than 10% since the order was issued, last modified, or last adjusted. COLA adjustments are made without going to court.
What should I do if custody changes?
If you have a child support order and the custody of the child changes, inform OCSS by emailing email@example.com with the subject line of “custody changed” or call the Child Support Helpline at 888-208-4485.
A parent must file a petition with the Family Court to terminate the child support order when the custody change is permanent or suspend the child support order when the change is temporary, and the child is expected to return to the custodial parent.
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Three add-on expenses to a basic child support order are intended to pay for some of a child’s other expenses. They are usually mandated, and the court adds:
- The cost of a child’s health insurance
- Unreimbursed medical expenses
- Necessary child care expenses.
The cost of health insurance is the difference between the cost of the health insurance premium for a single person and the cost of the premium for either a “family plan” or to insure the children.
Unreimbursed medical expenses consist of deductibles, co-payments, and other medical expenses not covered by the insurance plan. But it does not include the cost of over-the-counter or non-prescription medicines.
The cost of necessary child care expenses is for the payment of child care that is required while the parent is employed or while the parent is seeking employment.
These add-ons are shared pro-rata in proportion to the parties’ income.
When Does Child Support End in New York?
Child support automatically ends when the child turns 21. However, if the child is under 21 and married, self-supporting, or in the military, they are considered emancipated, and the parents can discontinue the support.
The exception to these situations is that if a child is disabled and unable to support themselves, support may continue until age 26.
Establishing Paternity in New York
Establishing parentage is the process of determining the legal parents of a child. It also means that parent has parental rights and responsibilities to the child, such as the right to seek custody or visitation and the responsibility for the child’s care and support, including financial and medical support.
In New York state, parentage may be established in any of the following ways:
- Using the voluntary Acknowledgment of Parent process
- Filing a petition with the Family Court to have the court determine either:
- paternity and issue an Order of Filiation, or
- parentage and issue a Judgment of Parentage
- By a surrogacy agreement or in a record showing the consent of the parents
You can use an Acknowledgment of Parentage (AOP), a form that parents can use to voluntarily establish legal parentage for a child without having to go to court.
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
A parent or custodian may file a petition for child support in Family Court. Also, a parent may request child support in a divorce case in Supreme Court. While a divorce case is open, any child support petition in Family Court will be transferred to Supreme Court, unless it is a Social Services petition because the child receives public assistance.
To start your case, complete Form 5143: Application for Child Support Services (PDF) (13 pages). If you request support for more than two children with the other party named in this application, complete and submit LDSS-5143B Additional Child Information for each additional child.
Read More: Uncontested Divorce in New York
What information do I need to provide to open a case?
The more information custodial parents can provide, the more quickly their child support agency can assist them. The support agency will want:
Information about the noncustodial parent:
- full name and date of birth
- current or last known address and phone number
- current or last known work address and phone number
- Social Security number (look on old pay stubs, tax, military, or medical records)
- income information (tax records, pay stubs, bank and business records)
- health insurance information
- acknowledgment of paternity or order of filiation or judgment of parentage for each child
- marriage license
- divorce decree or separation agreement
- copies of child support orders
- custodial parent’s income information (tax records, pay stubs, bank records)
- information about child-related expenses and the child’s needs
Information about the child(ren):
- birth certificate
- Social Security number
- health insurance coverage information
- current or last known address (if different than custodial parent’s)
During a court hearing, the parents will have the opportunity to reach a child support agreement. The Family Court will inform the parties of the “guidelines amount” of support based on their incomes. If the parents agree to a different amount, they must provide a reason. If there is no agreement, the court will have a trial.
Enforcing New York Child Support Orders
If a parent misses payments, the other parent or the Support Collection Agency can file a support violation petition in Family Court.
The agency has the authority to collect overdue child support (arrears) and to obtain medical coverage through a variety of administrative procedures, including:
- Driver License Suspension Request or Challenge
- Income Tax Refund Intercept (Federal and State): Request for Administrative Review
- Department of Taxation and Finance Challenge
- Professional and Other License Suspension Claim
- Freezing Financial Assets: Mistake of Fact or Exempt Money Claim
- Passport Denial Administrative Review Request
- Liens: Mistake of Fact Claim
- Report to Credit Bureaus: Mistake of Fact Claim
- Lottery Prize Intercept. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Lottery – case review” to request a case review.
- Income Execution (IEX) and Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB) Intercept
Administrative procedures can be put into action without going to court. Before any administrative process occurs, a notice is sent to the noncustodial parent. The notice explains the procedure, provides a deadline and instructions to comply with or challenge the action and explains the consequences of failing to comply.
If your license has been suspended due to nonpayment of child support, you may qualify for a restricted license. You must apply for a restricted license at a New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. A restricted license may only be used under certain conditions, including driving to and from your place of employment or education. A restricted license issued due to nonpayment of child support may not be used to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
Several different kinds of enforcement actions may occur simultaneously, based on the dollar amount of the debt or the length of time the debt has been accruing.
When a court order for child support directs the noncustodial parent to provide health insurance coverage, a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) is sent to the employer. The NMSN requires the employer to obtain health insurance for the noncustodial parent’s dependent children.
In all enforcement actions, the court will decide whether nonpayment was willful or non-willful.
A willful violation means the parent did not pay support, and they could or should have paid. There will be a money judgment in the amount of the support owed, and the parent might be put in jail for up to six months.
A non-willful violation means that the parent did not pay support, and they could not pay. There will be a money judgment in the amount of support owed.
Modifying New York Child Support Payments
The Child Support Program automatically reviews each child support order every two years to determine whether the amount to be paid should be increased due to cost of living increases. Cost-of-living adjustments can be made without going to court.
Parents who need to modify their court order due to a change in circumstance can discuss their options with an OCSS worker and agree voluntarily before an appearance in court. This service is called Modifying Orders Through Stipulation (MOTS) and can be discussed with an OCSS worker.
The approved agreement package is filed in court for a hearing to be scheduled. Usually, only one court appearance is required for the Support Magistrate to ensure the parents understand their rights and responsibilities and issue a modified consent order. In this situation, an OCSS worker drafts the agreement using the same guidelines as the court and helps the parents gather the required documents and answer questions.
You can schedule an appointment with an OCSS Customer Service representative by emailing email@example.com with the subject: “Agreement” and include your child support case ID number in the email.
If either the custodial or noncustodial parent’s circumstances change significantly (i.e., loss of job, change in custody of a child, income has changed 15% or more, or if the last order was issued more than three years ago.), the Child Support Program can help the parent file a petition in family court to request a modification to an existing order.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payor nor taxable to the recipient.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a substantially similar statement.
Helpful New York Child Support Videos
These YouTube videos will give you additional important child support information.
What You Need to Know about Child Support Hearings and Services (20 minutes)
Explains what you should bring with you to a child support hearing, what to expect during the hearing, and what to do after you receive a child support order.
Acknowledgment of Parentage in New York (11 minutes)
Explains when parentage needs to be acknowledged, what signing a voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form means, and who should (or should not) sign this form.
Completing the Acknowledgment of Parentage Form (9 minutes)
Explains how to complete and file a voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage form
Which Agency Handles Child Support Matters in New York?
The Human Resources Administration (HRA) Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) handles most issues related to child support in New York state. Some of these include:
- Locating non-custodial parents
- Establishing parentage
- Establishing support orders
- Support collection
- Administrative support enforcement
There are several ways to contact OCSS.
Email: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your child support case number in your email inquiry.
By phone appointment: Email email@example.com to schedule an appointment with a customer service representative. Please provide your name, child support case number, description of your concern(s), phone number, and the best time to reach you. Enter “Requesting a Customer Service Appointment” in the subject line of your email.
By phone: Call the Child Support Helpline at 888-208-4485 between 8 am and 7 pm Monday to Friday (except holidays).
PO Box 830
Canal Street Station
New York, NY 10013
In Person: Visit a child support worker at an OCSS Customer Service Walk-In Center for questions about child support obligations, payments, enforcement measures, and related issues. You do not need an appointment. Staff at Family Court office locations can also help parents.
To find the contact information for your local Child Support Program office, go here. Most offices are open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4 pm.