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Child support in New York is determined by the Child Support Standards Act [commonly referred to as the “CSSA” and codified in Domestic Relations Law § 240(1-b)]. The CSSA provides a formulaic approach to determining the appropriate amount of basic child support to be paid, in periodic payments, based upon the incomes of the parents. Each party’s income is reduced by FICA taxes.

In addition to a basic child support obligation, the CSSA also directs that the parties share the cost of the child or children’s medical insurance, unreimbursed medical expenses, childcare expenses and, if appropriate educational expenses, in proportion to each party’s respective incomes. It is important to note that a court has the power to impute income to one of the parties based upon what they are capable of earning, not what they actually earn, based upon the facts and circumstances of each case.

Who has to pay child support?

After determining the income of the parties, the court must determine who will pay. Under the language of CSSA, the non-custodial parent, meaning the parent who has less than 50% of the time with the child, is to pay support to the primary residential parent, even if they earn less than the other parent. The only time the court considers income in terms of determining who pays support is when there is a true 50/50 division of parenting time. If this is the case, then the party who has the “higher income is deemed the noncustodial parent for child support purposes”. Matter of Smisek v. DeSantis, 209 A.D.3d 142 (Second Dept. 2022).

How much does the noncustodial parent have to pay?

After determining who is the noncustodial parent (i.e. the one paying child support) the court combines each party’s income and assigns a percentage to the parents’ combined income, based upon the number of children. The percentages are:

1 child = 17%
2 children = 25%
3 children = 29%
4 children = 31%
5+ children = at least 35%

Once that number is determined, the court prorates each party’s income to determine the noncustodial parent’s proportionate share of said obligation. This amount is to be paid to the custodial parent unless the court finds that it would be “unjust or inappropriate” based upon various factors specifically listed in the CSSA (commonly referred to as the “f factors”).

It is important to note there is a statutory cap on combined parental income in which the CSSA applies. The court may go above the cap, if the court finds the award unjust or inappropriate, after consideration of the factors within the court’s discretion. The combined parental income cap as of 2023 was $163,000.