Often times parents do not take into consideration the financial component of having a child. Let’s be realistic, who wants to put a “price tag” on their child? However, this is something that parents are forced to deal with in the context of a divorce or separation when children are involved. Upon the commencement of a divorce or separation proceeding, parents may find themselves asking “what exactly is child support and how is it calculated?”

What is child support?

Simply put, child support is the monetary contribution one parent makes to the other parent to assist with supporting a child financially. In New York, child support includes a “basic child support” figure together with child support “add-ons”. “Add-ons” include but are not limited to unreimbursed health insurance costs, the cost of health insurance, extracurricular activities, and childcare expenses.

Who pays child support?

Child support is paid by the “noncustodial parent” to the “custodial parent”.

How is basic child support calculated?

Calculating the appropriate amount of child support is a process.

The first step is to determine what is known as the combined parental income. In order to arrive at the combined parental income, you simply take each parents income (less the required deductions pursuant to DRL § 240(1-b)(b)(5)(vii)) and add them together. It is important to note, in New York there is a cap utilized for the combined parental income. As of March 1, 2022, the combined parental income cap is $163,000. By capping the combined parental income at $163,000, the court does not need to (but can and often does) consider any combined parental income which exceeds this amount.

The second step is to determine the pro-rata share of the combined parental income for each parent. In order to figure this number out take each parent’s income separately and divide it by the combined parental income.

For the third step you will multiple the combined parental income (up to the cap or above the cap in certain circumstances) by the proper “child support percentage”. The “child support percentages” are as follows: (i) 17% of the combined parental income for one child; (ii) 25% of the combined parental income for two children; (iii) 29% percent of the combined parental income for three children; (iv) 31% percent of the combined parental income for four children; and (v) no less than 35% percent of the combined parental income for five or more children.[1] Therefore, if you have one child, you would multiple the combined parental income (up to a cap) by 17%.

The final step is determining how much your actual obligation for child support may be. In order to arrive at this amount, you take the sum you were left with after step three and multiple it by your pro-rata share that you calculated in step two. This will then provide you with your yearly child support obligation.

Conclusion

The unfortunate reality is that in the context of a divorce or separation action, children do come with a “price tag”, which is calculated using a specific formula. While each situation and fact pattern are different the child support formula explained above is utilized in calculating the presumptive appropriate amount of child support.

The material in this blog is meant only to provide general information and is not a substitute nor is it legal advice to you. In the event you need legal assistance, please contact Hanna E. Kirkpatrick or Mariselle R. Harrison at (516) 746-8000 or via e-mail at hkirkpatrick@jaspanllp.com mharrison@jaspanllp.com.

[1] DRL § 240(1-b)(b)(3)(i-v).