*Updated in September 2019
A question our attorneys are often asked are:
"When can I stop paying child support in New York?"
Child support in New York is governed by a section of Domestic Relations Law commonly referred to as the “Child Support Standards Act” or “CSSA” for short. The CSSA not only determines how much child support a parent has to pay, but for how long.
Although many states have child support terminating by law at age 18, that is not the case in New York. Pursuant to the CSSA, child support ends upon a child turning 21.
Although some states have a younger age of emancipation, in New York, unless there is an signed agreement that states otherwise, child support must be paid until the child reaches the age of 21. This presumes that the child is not self-supporting, is still living at home with the custodial parent or attending college full time.
Child support can end earlier than age 21 if a child is deemed to be “emancipated. All children under age 21 are presumed to be “unemancipated” for purposes of child support, even if they are over the age of 18. A child can be emancipated earlier than 21 if the child is in the military, working full time, or married.
Child Support for Children Over 21
There sometimes comes a follow-up question: "What happens if the young adult is still in college after they turn 21?" The answer remains the same in this situation: Unless the parents have a written agreement, child support is terminated at the age of 21, even if the child is a student who is not self-supporting.
To cover this dilemma, it can be put in the legal separation or divorce agreement that child support will continue until the age of 22 or graduation from college (or whatever is agreed on) if the child is still in college full time.
New York State Child Support Laws & College Tuition
Since New York child support ends at age 21, does it include college tuition? Generally, both parents must contribute to the cost of college tuition up to a certain cap, called a "SUNY cap" for a State University of New York or “CUNY cap" for a City University of New York.
These child support caps are usually designated as the amount to which the parents are obligated to contribute, even if a child opts for a more expensive or private college. This is a strong incentive for students to stick with a four-year college plan, or they may find themselves with some more student loans than they had expected.
Parents often agree to extend child support until age 22 if the child is attending college. This is based on the fact that a child attending a 4-year degree program on a full-time basis will generally finish college at age 22.
Agreeing to extend child support until age 22 when a child is finished with college assists the custodial parent in financially affording the child’s “home” residence, even if the child is away at college; however, if the parties do not agree to this, then a court is limited by the CSSA and cannot order a parent to pay child support until age 22, even if the child is in college.
Of course, many parents still help their children out with college payments and support (rent, car payments, and cell phone bills, etc.) once their legal obligations end, but this would be considered voluntary support. It would be helping to "support" a young adult son or daughter in a different way. Of course, young people who are still in college or grad school are all for that, because they usually need all of the help they can get!
Have more questions about NY child support laws? Consult a Long Island child support lawyer about your case for free! Call Wisselman, Harounian & Associates at (516) 406-8500 or contact us online.