Child Support – NY State Guidelines vs. Divorce Mediation Approach

In the state of New York, both parents are required to financially support their children until the age of 21, regardless of their relationship status. These child support guidelines are designed to ensure that a child still receives the resources necessary to live a happy, healthy life throughout changes within their family dynamic.

Unfortunately, courts are very strict in their calculations, establishing certain guidelines without considering the full reality of a family’s financial situation. Mediation, as an alternative, allows parents to make decisions based on their values and unique situations without the involvement of the court.

When deciding the right process for your family, there are a couple of key differences between determining child support through state-determined guidelines and through divorce meditation.

State Guidelines to Child Support

In New York, the state determines how much you pay in child support based on your income, using the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) formula. The state will use the combined total income of both parents and take a certain percentage of this joint income to calculate the child support cost. These incomes may include pensions, fellowships, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment, Social Security and retirement benefits, among others, while deducting certain expenses such as taxes, alimony obligations, business costs, or public assistance.

This percentage of combined income is determined based on how many children a parent must support.

  • One child: 17%
  • Two children: 25%
  • Three children: 29%
  • Four children: 31%
  • Five or more children: 35%

Additional child support may be paid to contribute to the child’s healthcare, education, and other additional living expenses.

For the parent who does not have physical custody of the child for more than 50% of the time, known as the noncustodial parent, contributes the exact percentage of the combined total income that they are responsible for as child support payment. The custodial parent is presumed to be contributing their percentage by providing for the child when they are in their home, so essentially their income is ignored in the equation. If both parents share custody equally, the higher earning parent would pay basic child support to the other parent.

New York also has a $154,000 total income cap on child support (as of March 2020), requiring a judge to use the formula for any combined income total under this amount. If the parents’ joint income is higher than this cap, a judge is required to explain how arrived at that number based on factors laid out within the law. So, to clarify, the cap is not a limit on the child support, but instead a cut-off in which judges are no longer required to use the formula method in calculating the child support of each parent.

Overall, the court will determine how much is just for you to pay in child support based on how much money you make and whether or not you have custodial rights to the child with little deviance from the formula.

Mediation Approach to Child Support

While the courts require mediators to use the same calculations stated above, the mediation process allows a closer consideration of the various factors that the parents feel are important to them and make changes to these numbers. With a mediator’s legal guidance, parents can come to a financial agreement while taking in all aspects of their unique situation and financial realities.

Without being forced into the strict guidelines of a court-led divorce process, parents can better come to a mutual agreement that is best for their child/children and each other.

Key Differences:

The main differences between state-determined child support and mediation-determined child support are:

  • Mediation allows for more flexibility in the calculation of parental contributions based on specific financial factors and the family’s situation
  • Mediation is typically less aggressive than court-ordered child support, as many parents will try to use mediation first, turning to the court as a last resort when no personal/private agreement can be made
  • The court must follow the Child Support Standards Act guidelines when determining child support up until the aforementioned cap, while mediated child support can deviate from the formula with provided reasons

Our mediators in Suffolk County will help the parties reach a child support agreement, contact us today to learn more about our process.