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When Should There Be Child Support Beyond the Initial Cap in New York?

Under New York law, child support is comprised of 2 components: basic support and pro rata add-ons. The basic support amount is always based on the both parents’ combined annual income — not the income of the non-custodial parent alone — but mandatory add-ons can be included for daycare, medical costs, and other costs. Basic support is first calculated based on the initial cap of $143,000 in combined income. If income of both parents exceeds this cap, the court can determine if there should be additional support ordered for the amount exceeding the limit.

How Basic Child Support is Calculated
In New York, child support is based on the combined annual income of both parents. Forms of income include gross income, investment income, and benefits like retirement income, workers’ compensation, and unemployment income. New York courts even have discretion to add additional sources of income or sizeable assets like non-incoming producing assets, cars or memberships provided as a form of compensation, and services that are provided by friends or family members.

After calculating the total income of both parents, some deductions will be made. These include:

  • FICA taxes
  • Supplemental security income
  • Child support that is being paid under a court order or written agreement for a child not part of this pending action
  • Maintenance paid is deducted from the non-custodial spouse’s income
  • Maintenance paid to a spouse that is not party to the current action
  • Some unreimbursed business expenses

This amount will then by multiplied by a percentage:

  • 17% of combined income for 1 child
  • 25% of combined income for 2 kids
  • 29% of combined income for 3 kids
  • 31% of combined income for 4 kids
  • 35% or more of combined income for 5+ kids

The non-custodial parent is not required to pay the full combined child support amount; instead, he or she pays their pro rata share up to the income cap. When the payee spouse has much higher income than the non-custodial spouse, the amount of child support that will be payable will be much lower than it would have been otherwise.

When Income Exceeds the Limit
When income exceeds the cap, the court must be shown why additional support should be granted. This is an important step in determining a fair child support amount as a child’s lifestyle could change substantially if support is only granted up to the cap. Without the court going beyond the cap, parents with a combined income of $143,000 would have the same child support obligation as parents who make $400,000 each yet have much higher housing and schooling expenses.

When income of both parents exceeds the $143,000 cap, the court can consider factors that may support increasing child support. Sometimes the court applies the same standard formula to the income exceeding the limit or it can make adjustments based on the factors of the case.

The court can consider many factors:

  • Tax consequences
  • Each parent’s financial resources. The court is less likely to award additional support beyond the cap if the cap is exceeding by a fairly small amount. If the additional income is attributed mostly to the custodial parent, the court is even less likely to award more support.
  • The child’s health or special needs. Courts are more likely to award additional support if the child has an illness, learning disability, or special educational needs.
  • The educational needs or each parent. If the income of both parents exceeds $143,000 but the non-custodial parent attends school, their schooling expenses are taken into account when the court determines whether they should pay additional support based on a higher income level.
  • The child’s standard of living if the parents remained together
  • Needs of other children the non-custodial parent does not pay support for
  • Non-monetary contributions each parent makes toward the child’s well-being and care
  • Whether one parent has income that is much higher
  • Extraordinary expenses the non-custodial parent must pay to use their visitation if the other parent’s costs are then reduced. An example is summers spent with the non-custodial parent.
  • Child care expenses necessary for one parent to work or go to school

Add-On Expenses
When the courts determine if additional support should be paid on income exceeding the cap, they may consider the amount the non-custodial parent pays for support add-ons and additional costs like health care, daycare, and educational costs like college tuition or private school.

Daycare is one of the most common add-ons to basic support. When the custodial parent works, seeks employment, or trains or attends school to lead to employment, daycare costs can be added to the combined income in a share equal to the income of each parent.

Health care insurance premiums and reasonable health care costs are allocated just like daycare.