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Posted in Child Support on 11th December 2010

Child Support Demystified

      It is always relevant and important information when a professional provides key facts regarding child support.  Particularly these days where we are all faced with tough economic circumstances, either directly or indirectly, knowing how to deal with receiving or paying child support is most useful. New Yorkers familiar with the child support laws, think they know enough to present their case or defend their position without the need to consult with an expert.  However, many of the common beliefs about child support are misconceived, misunderstood or misguided.  I have chosen to dispell some of the most common myths, misconceptions and confusion about one of the most significant areas of family law.


Here are some:


          1.     The support obligation for the dependent child is up to he/she reaches 21 years (even if that child lives in another state after the order is entered) unless he/she becomes emancipated before that age by marriage, full-time employment earning enough to be self-sufficient, enlisting in the armed forces, abandoning the parents’ home without reason or consent or some other act where the child becomes self-supporting.


          2.     Step parents are obligated to support step children if the children would otherwise become recipients of public assistance.  However, that obligation ends once the step parent and the biological parent divorce or the step-parent dies.


          3.     If both parties have joint physical custody (which must be 50/50), the non-custodial parent still has an obligation to provide financial support if he/she earns more than the non-custodial.  The only circumstances where the courts would apportion support is if there is split custody, where one child lives with one parent and his/her sibling(s) lives with the other.


          4.     Parents can legally enter an agreement regarding the amount of support without court’s intervention as long as the amount is not less than .00 per month and both parties review the Child Support Standards Act (“CSSA”) to determine what the support obligation would be based on the statute.  These provisions should be included in the agreement to be enforced by the court.


          5.     If the custodial parent is on public assistance, the Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) can sue the non-custodial parent for support.  If the court directs an Order of Support of per month, then they will give the entire amount to the custodial parent plus entitled benefits.  If the Order of Support is or more, the custodial parent will get the first dollars only plus entitled benefits.  If the Order of Support is more than the entitled benefits amount, then public assistance will be terminated and replaced by the Order ofSupport.


          6.     Once child support arrears have accumulated, the court cannot reduce or wipe out arrears.  The court only has the authority to amend the amount of arrears if there is a modification petition before it and it addresses the arrears that accumulated from the date of filing the petition.  Most issues concerning arrears must be directed to the Office of Child Support Enforcement or the Support Collection Unit.


          7.     Cost of Living Adjustments (“COLA”) are disputable.  In non-public assistance cases the enforcement agency will review the Order of Support every two years to determine if the amount should be adjusted based on the cost of living for the area the child resides in.  Once the non-custodial parent receives notice that such adjustment has been made, he/she has thirty (30) days to object.  Once an objection is made the case must go before a Family Court Support Magistrate for review.  However, this is an opportunity for the non-custodial to bring up change in income or employment issues warranting a downward modification.


          8.     Failure to pay child support, pursuant to court order, for a child 16 years or under is a class “A” misdemeanor.  If there is such failure more than once within a five (5) year period then it is a class “E” felony.


          9.     You may still have an obligation to provide financial support for your children after your parental rights were terminated.  Your obligation ends once the children are actually adopted.


          10.     Additional children born after your Order of Support is not a basis to reduce the support obligation unless the additional children live in the household with you.  If the additional children’s other parent lives in the household, then his/her income will be considered and if the amount of income of both parents that is available to the additional children is less than the amount that is available to the previous children then your Order of Support may be reduced.


          Knowing your rights and obligations before the children are born would be ideal but knowing your rights and obligations once they are here could certainly make life less tumultuous.  Be sure to seek legal advice, refer to the plethora of resources or just ask questions before you dare to enter the courtroom.




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