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How to Calculate Child Support Amount

FLU Fact Sheet #9

How are the child support amounts determined?

New York law says that children are entitled to share in the income and standard of living of both parents. This means that the “non-custodial” parent must pay child support to the child’s custodian if the child is under the age of 21. The child support amount is based on a strict formula. After a child support petition is filed in Family Court, a Hearing Examiner hears child support cases and decides the child support amount.

First, the court determines each parent’s income:

What is included as income?

Income includes gross income (amount of income before taxes are taken out). This amount is reported on the most recent federal tax return form. Income includes overtime earned. Non-custodial parents married to someone else and filing jointly must provide their individual gross income.

Income also includes benefits like workers compensation, disability benefits, unemployment insurance, veterans benefits, social security benefits, pensions, retirement benefits, fellowships, stipends and annuity payments. The court may also consider other income or benefits, such as meals, lodging, memberships, cars or other benefits that are paid for by an employer, fringe benefits, and financial help from friends and relatives.

What is not included as income?

In calculating your income, the following items will be deducted: unreimbursed employee business expenses; alimony or maintenance paid to a spouse pursuant to a court order or written agreement; child support paid pursuant to a court order or written agreement for a child who is not subject to the current child support case; public assistance; supplemental security income; city income or earnings taxes actually paid; and FICA taxes actually paid.

Where the non-custodial parent’s income is less than $8,240 a year (or $198 a week), the court can impose a minimum amount of $25 per month.

If the court determines that a parent has reduced his or her income or resources in order to reduce or avoid the parent’s obligation for child support, the court can assume a higher amount of income. This is based on his/her past earnings or his/her ability to earn money.

Second, the court decides how much the pro rata share is:

After determining each parent’s income, the court adds their incomes together and then multiplies that number by a percentage, depending on the number of children. Those percentages are:

  • 17% for one child
  • 25% for two children
  • 29% for three children
  • 31% for four children
  • No less than 35% for five or more children.

That amount is then divided between the two parents based on the proportion of each parent’s income to the combined parental income. For example, if the non-custodial parent makes $60,000 a year and the custodial parent makes $20,000, the combined income would be $80,000 (the non-custodial parent’s share is 75%, and the custodial parent’s is 25% of the total). If they have one child, the court would then multiply $80,000 by 17%, which would be $13,600. This is the combined support obligation for both parents. The support obligation for each parent is their pro rata share of the $13,600. In this case, the non-custodial parent’s support obligation is $10,200 a year (75% of $13,600), or $196 a week.

Can the hearing examiner order a different amount?

The Hearing Examiner has the discretion to order a different amount. Either parent can argue that the court should give a higher or lower child support award than the amount calculated by combined parental income. Factors the court will consider include:

  • The financial resources of each parent
  • The physical and emotional health of the child and his or her educational and vocational needs
  • The standard of living the child had when the parents were together
  • Tax implications
  • The non-monetary contributions of each parent

What other expenses can the court order the non-custodial parent to pay?

Medical Expenses:
The court can order non-custodial parents to provide medical insurance and/or pay their share of unreimbursed medical expenses.

Child Care Expenses:
The court can order each parent to pay his/her share of child care expenses if the court finds that the custodial parent is working or receiving education or training that will lead to employment. The court can also order the non-custodial parent to pay for child care expenses when the custodial parent is looking for work.

Educational Expenses:
After considering the circumstances of the case and the child’s best interest, the court can order the non-custodial parent to pay post-secondary, private, special, or enriched educational expenses. Any amount that the non-custodial parent would have to pay is determined in the discretion of the court.

What if you don’t agree with the amount the hearing examiner ordered?

After a final support order is entered by the Hearing Examiner, either party can ask a Family Court Judge to review it and to consider increasing or decreasing it. This is done by filing objections within 30 days from the day that the support was ordered by the Hearing Examiner or within 35 days of the date the order was mailed to the parties. To file an objection in Brooklyn Family Court, you must go to Room 231. Each party must serve a copy of his or her objections on the other party, who then has 13 days to answer the objections. The Family Court Judge must then make a decision within 15 days.

What if the parents share custody of their child(ren)?

If parents share custody of their child (the child lives with both parents an equal amount of time), the person with the higher income will have to pay child support to the other parent. The Hearing Examiner should apply the same combined parental income formula to determine child support awards.

For more information you can call the Family/Domestic Violence Unit hotline on Tuesdays from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. at
(718) 237-5563 or go to the Family Justice Center at 350 Jay Street, 15th Floor, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This article was posted January 11, 2008