Child Custody & Support: Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Guidelines For Child Support In New York?

New York uses a formula based upon a percentage of the “combined adjusted gross income” of each parent to determine how much child support to order. For amounts of combined parental income reaching $141,000, the obligation is 17 percent of the total income for one child, 25 percent for two, 29 percent for three, 31 percent for four, and 35 percent for five or more children. If the combined parental income exceeds $141,000, the courts will use their discretion to reach a decision.

The custodial parent can request that support payments be automatically deducted from the noncustodial parent’s paycheck or income. Child support orders can be modified but only with proof of a change of circumstances.

How Can Child Support Be Obtained?

A child support order is issued by a judge and will outline how much and how often support payments are to be made. A child support order is typically made after two parents divorce but can also be made if the parents were never married and paternity has been established. Payments can be made directly to the custodial parent by the noncustodial parent. Alternatively, if the parents live in different states, payments can be made to a child support agency that will, in turn, pay the custodial parent.

What If My Ex-Spouse Refuses To Pay Child Support?

Child support must be paid after an order is made; failure to do so can result in disciplinary action. Courts can enforce child support through wage garnishment orders, which direct the employer of the noncustodial parent to deduct the amount of the payment from their paychecks and send it directly to the custodial parent. If payments are made to an agency, any back payments, commonly referred to as “arrears,” can be deducted from the non-custodial parent’s tax return and sent to the custodial parent.

If the custodial parent makes a claim that the non-custodial parent has violated the order, and a judge determines that the violation was willful, the noncustodial parent may be subject to consequences, including a money judgment in favor of the other parent or up to six months in jail.

Can Child Support Be Modified? Can It Be Terminated?

Child support orders can be modified with proof of a change in circumstances, including changes to a parent’s financial, living, or employment situation. Other grounds for a child support modification include unexpected expenses for the child, including a need for special education or hefty medical bills. Both parents must submit documentation showing their financial situations before a judge can make an appropriate modification.

Child support can only be terminated if the child reaches the age of 21 or becomes emancipated. In some circumstances, support may remain in effect after the age of 21 if the child has further educational needs. If the child refuses to have a relationship with their parent despite the parent’s best efforts, they may be able to have the courts terminate the support order.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

If a private agreement cannot be reached between divorcing or separating parents, child custody will be determined by a Family or Supreme Court. The court will make their decision based on what is in the best interests of the child and will take into account the child’s relationship with each parent, the income, the living situation of each parent, and what will be least disruptive to the child’s life. Depending on the age of the child, a judge may also consider their preference. Judges may also call on the opinions of social workers, psychologist, or psychiatrists to help make the final decision.

What Is The Difference Between Sole And Joint Custody?

With sole custody, only one parent will have the authority to make decisions about their child’s upbringing, including education, health, and welfare. Joint custody is when both parents have equal decision-making power. Parents may not exclude each other when making important decisions. Violating this agreement will result in consequences. If one parent takes the other to court and they are found in contempt, they could be responsible for paying the other parent’s attorney fees or may risk losing sole custody.

Can Child Custody Orders Be Modified?

Yes, modifications can be made with proof of a substantial change to the parent or child’s situation and are justifiable when the child’s best interests are at risk. Custody arrangements can also be revised if, for example, one parent refuses to allow the other to visit the child or if they attempt to alienate the child from the other parent. Unless both parents can reach an agreement on their own, the matter will have to be resolved in court.

Can Custody Affect My Ability To Relocate?

The custodial parent is not free to relocate to an area where the other parent cannot exercise their visitation rights. In the event that the custodial parent wishes to relocate to another state, they will need to obtain the permission of the other parent or the court. If approved, the visitation rights of the noncustodial parent will be revised to allow greater visitation time over summer or vacation time.

What Are Supervised And Restricted Visitations?

Parents who have exhibited destructive or violent behavior in the past may only be allowed to visit their children with supervision. A responsible adult like a family member, friend, or court-appointed supervisor will have to be present for the duration of the visit. Supervised visits may take place in a neutral facility and can help parents establish a regular schedule without having to see or interact with the other parent.

Do I Have Visitation Rights As A Grandparent?

Yes. If a grandparent who provides care to their grandchildren becomes involved in a disagreement with the child’s parents, they do have the right to seek the intervention of the court to protect their visitation rights. Judges will consider the basis and nature of the parent’s objection to visitation as well as the extent of the relationship between the grandchild and their grandparent. It is wise to seek the assistance of a lawyer from Wisselman & Associates to ensure that your grandparent visitation rights are protected.