What happens in a New York court when it comes to child support?
At court, a hearing will be held to decide how much you will have to pay for child support. You should bring your latest tax returns, W-2s, paycheck stubs, and everything else you have to show your current income. The judge or hearing examiner will use this information and other information presented by other parties to decide what you should pay for child support for your child.
What if I do not go to the court hearing?
If you do not appear in court at the time the court expects you to, the court can declare that you are the father of the child and order you to pay child support even if you are not there. If you are not there, the judge or hearing examiner will decide how much you have to pay for child support without knowing how much you really earn. The judge or hearing examiner will also determine how much you owe in past child support for the child without knowing how much money you made during that past period of time.
If you do not go to court and show the judge or hearing examiner your financial situation, the amount the court orders you to pay may be more than you think you can afford. Because you did not show up, the court based the order on what it thought you earned, or on the needs or standard of living of the child, whichever is greater. As far as the law is concerned, that is what you owe. If you do not pay what you owe, steps will be taken to collect the money from you. The court may also enter a warrant for your arrest. Remember: These steps will not be taken if you show up at court when you are supposed to, with all the documents you need to show what you earn.
What happens after the court hearing?
When the judge or hearing examiner signs the order of support, a copy will be mailed to you. The order of support will tell you the amount you have to pay, the date that payments must start, and where to send your payments.
If you have a job, the child support agency will send a notice to your employer who will deduct the amount you have to pay directly from your paycheck. This will save you the time and trouble of getting bank checks or money orders, and paying for stamps to mail your payments. Your employer will send the payments directly to the child support enforcement agency. The child support agency keeps track of how much you owe and how much you have paid. It is the child support agency’s job to see that you make payments regularly and on time and to take action if you do not pay.
If you do not have a job, or are self-employed, you will be provided billing coupons and information about where and when to mail your child support payments. Your child support order will also tell you that you must tell the child support agency if you have any change in your income or you change or lose your job. If you do not do this, you could fall behind with your payments and then have to pay not only the current support amount, but also an additional amount to make up the payments you missed. If you fall behind on your payments, the child support agency will take enforcement actions to collect what you owe.
How much will I have to pay for child support?
To make sure that the amount a person has to pay for child support is fair, the court uses a standard guideline to figure out what a person should pay based on how much they earn in a year. Remember: You will not be ordered to pay an amount that is unfair under the law.
Besides support payments, you may also owe support back to the time your child was born. You may also have to pay for your child’s child care costs, uninsured medical expenses, and education expenses. If health insurance is available for your child through your employer, you will also have to get health insurance coverage for your child, as long as the health insurance coverage is available at a reasonable cost and is accessible to your child.
The court uses a standard guideline to calculate what you will pay, based on your adjusted gross income and on the number of children involved. The court first determines your gross income, and then makes certain deductions (including Medicare, Social Security, and New York City or Yonkers tax) to establish your adjusted gross income. The court then multiplies the adjusted gross income by the standard guideline percentage for the number of children. These percentages are as follows:
* 17% for one child
* 25% for two children
* 29% for three children
* 31% for four children
* at least 35% for five or more children.
Then your share of child care, medical, and educational expenses is added to the income percentage amount. The combined amount, percentage of income plus share of expenses, is the basic child support amount.
For incomes over $130,000, the court determines whether or not to use the percentage guidelines and may consider other factors in setting the full child support payment.
The guideline was put in the law to make sure that the court establishes support amounts that people with similar income will pay, and is based on estimates of how much parents would contribute if the family lived together. The guideline was not meant to take as much money as possible from a person who has to pay support, and it is not based on what the person who has to pay thinks should be enough.
You have to pay child support even if you receive unemployment benefits, disability benefits, Social Security payments, or worker’s compensation payments.
After the court determines the amount you should pay for child support, the court then considers how much income you will have after child support is deducted. If your remaining income would be less than or equal to the federal poverty income guidelines, an order for a lower amount (for example $25 per month) may be issued. This amount may then go up when your income increases, after review by the court.
Also, if your income is less than or equal to the federal poverty income guideline, there is a limit on the amount of unpaid child support arrears that can be accrued (built up). The amount that you owe when you are at these income levels cannot build to more than $500.
If your child is receiving temporary or safety net assistance from social services, the first $200 of any current child support payment you make will be given to the person taking care of your child, in addition to the monthly temporary or safety net assistance grant.
What if I can’t pay my child support?
If there is a change in your income (for example, if you are laid off, or get a different job that pays less than you were earning before), or there are other circumstances that affect your ability to pay your child support, you should immediately file a petition for modification with the court. The petition for modification is filed with the court that originally issued the child support order.
After the petition for modification is filed, a hearing date will be set. At the hearing you will have to present information, including documents about your change in income or other changes, to the judge or hearing examiner. Based on the new information, the court may change your order. If it does, the change will go back to the date that you filed the petition. You will also get credit for whatever you have paid since then. That is why you should ask for a modification immediately when you have a change in income. It is also why you should keep paying as much as you can.
Remember that only the court can change the amount you owe. Until it does, under the law you still owe the amount of support in the original court order. If you do not keep paying that amount until it is changed, steps will be taken to collect that amount from you. If you cannot pay all that you are supposed to, you should keep paying as much as you can until the court changes the amount. The worst thing you can do is not pay anything at all.
Will the amount that I owe change?
The amount that you owe for child support may change over time based on cost of living adjustments and changes in the amount of money you earn.
Every two years the child support enforcement agency automatically reviews each child support case to determine whether the amount to be paid should be increased due to cost of living increases. If the cost of living has increased by more than ten percent since the order of support was made or last reviewed, your order amount will increase by the amount of increase in the cost of living. For example, if the cost of living increases by fifteen percent, your order amount will be increased by fifteen percent.
Please note that the child support enforcement agency can make these cost of living increases to your order amount without going to court. However, before any change goes into effect, you will receive a notice telling you of the change and what you need to do to challenge the change.
What if I move?
As long as you are under a court order for child support, you must notify the child support enforcement agency if you change your residential and/or mailing address, telephone number, Social Security number, or driver’s license number.
What happens if I do not pay what I am supposed to?
Your obligation to support your child begins when your child is born. If you do not start paying support when your child is born or do not pay what you owe for pregnancy or birth expenses, the amount you should have paid starts to add up. Even if you start paying later, you may still owe money from the time before you were paying. This is another reason why it is best to pay support right from the beginning.
The child support enforcement agency keeps track of the money you owe. Amounts you owe that you have not paid are called arrears. If you have arrears, the child support enforcement agency will take steps to collect that money. These steps can include taking your tax refund, lottery winnings, and your bank accounts; suspending your driver’s license; and notifying credit reporting agencies about your debt. If you do not pay support, you can also be sentenced to time in jail.
You will get a notice in the mail before any of these things happen. The notice will tell you exactly what you have to do to stop them from happening. For example, if you get a notice that your driver’s license is going to be suspended, you can keep your license by making an arrangement with the child support agency to pay what you owe.
If you have moved and have not notified the child support agency, you will not receive important notices mailed to you to keep you informed about actions that are taking place on your child support account. Thus, you will not have the opportunity to take steps to stop the actions from taking place. In order to ensure you receive important notices, you must keep your address information up to date.
If you try to avoid being found, the child support enforcement agency will use many ways to find you, even if you go to another state. All states have child support enforcement agencies, and they all work together to find people who are not paying child support. Once you are found, enforcement actions will begin to collect all the money you owe.
What about visitation and custody?
Visitation and custody issues are separate from child support. If there is a support order and the other parent or guardian does not allow you to visit the child, you still owe child support. If you are having problems with your visitation rights or you have physical custody of your child, but do not have court-ordered custody, you need to go to court to get a court order stating that you have legal custody or to establish or enforce visitation rights. In the meantime, you must still pay the amount of child support that you have been ordered.
How can I help my child and myself?
Being a parent brings many responsibilities. Being a parent will also be the hardest and most rewarding job you will ever have. In fact, the benefits, rewards, and memories of being a parent are limitless and will last a lifetime and beyond. By showing your child that you care enough to be there for them, both emotionally and financially, you are showing them your love and respect. You are also teaching them what it means to be a parent—a skill they may one day pass on to their children.
Click Here For A New York Child Support Calculator (opens in a new tab)
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