For many parents, child support payments can seem overwhelming, encompassing expenses outside most families’ means, from private school fees to college tuition.
Child Support in New York
Child support is money paid by a parent to provide for a child’s needs. A child support payment could be used to fund a child’s schooling, higher education, or health care expenses.
In general, child support arrangements are intended to preserve the child’s lifestyle. Since a child’s lifestyle is almost always dependent on their parent’s financial means, child support payments may vary between families.
A child support agreement may, for example, include directives to pay for expenses including, but not limited to:
- The child’s basic needs
- Private school fees
- Extracurricular activities, including team sports and academic tutoring
- College tuition
Many parents are surprised to find that their child support order, or child support agreement, stipulates that they must pay a percentage of their income to the child’s college education.
Child Support Obligations Don’t End When the Child Turns 18
Child support, custody, and visitation rights are often among the most contentious issues in any divorce. Under most circumstances, these concerns begin to dissipate once the child nears the age of majority. After a child turns 18, they may decide—independent of the court—where they wish to live, and how often they wish to visit either parent.
However, while custodial agreements and visitation arrangements may be voided upon the child’s 18th birthday, child support orders have a later expiration date: in New York, child support must be paid until the child turns 21.
Exceptions for Emancipated Minors
New York law suggests that children are entitled to receive support from their parents until they turn 21.
However, under certain, limited circumstances, a parent’s financial responsibilities may be relieved at an earlier age. For example, if the young person becomes financially independent or makes a major life decision, the court may find that they no longer need—nor should they expect—continued support from their family.
A parent may petition the court to end a child support order if the child:
- Joins the military
- Obtains a full-time job
Calculating Educational Expenses for Child Support Payments
Child support payments and college education contributions are always calculated by the court.
In New York, the courts use a pre-determined formula that considers the gross income of both parents. The parents’ combined incomes is then multiplied by a particular percentage, which varies depending on how many children the divorced couple had.
The Child Support Standards Act recommends the following payments:
- One child. If the divorced couple had one child, then child support should equal 17% of the parents’ combined incomes.
- Two children. If the divorced couple had two children, then child support should equal 25% of the parents’ combined incomes.
- Three children. If the divorced couple had three children, then child support should equal 29% of the parents’ combined incomes.
- Four children. If the divorced couple had four children, then child support should equal 31% of the parents’ combined incomes.
- Five or more children. If the divorced couple had five or more children, then child support must be a minimum of 35% of the parents’ combined incomes.
Child support payments may be used to fund a child’s attendance in a private school or cover the costs of college tuition.
However, the court may—at its discretion—direct the non-custodial parent to make additional payments for the child’s education. These payments are separate from, and exceed, the percentages determined by the Child Support Standards Act.