Basic information about child support in New York.
What is child support? Who can file?
Child support is money that a parent pays for the care, maintenance and education of his/her unemancipated minor child under the age of 21, according to a court order or an agreement between the parties.1
You can file for child support after a custody order is in place or without a custody order if you are the custodial parent (your child lives with you). Note: If a non-parent is raising a child, such as a legal guardian or someone in loco parentis, s/he can file for child support against one or both parents.2
If you are filing against the child's father, you must establish paternity first (if it has not been established already). For information about how paternity is established, please see the section entitled What are some pros and cons of getting a custody order? Establishing paternity will legally establish the father’s rights to the child and so if this concerns you, you may want to consult an attorney before doing filing for support.
For more information about filing for child support in New York, please see NY Child Support Online on the NYS Division of Child Support Enforcement website.
1 NY Dom Rel Law § 236(B)(1)(f); NY Fam Ct Act § 413(1)(a) & (1)(b)(2)
2 NY Fam Ct Act § 422(a)
How much child support can I get?
Generally, a referee or support magistrate will be the person who is in charge of child support proceedings, not a judge.1 S/he almost always uses set guidelines in a child support obligation worksheet to determine how much support you will receive. If you would like to see all of the factors that go into determining support, you can visit the NY State Child Support website. The guidelines involve a complex formula - some of the factors involved are the parents’ incomes, your child’s needs and the custody arrangements (in terms of how often the child lives with each parent). To get a rough idea of how much support you may receive, you can visit AllLaw.com's NY child support calculator. (Note: WomensLaw is not affiliated with this website.) However, please note that this website only estimates the amount of support you may get.
When you file for child support in family court, you probably won't begin receiving the support immediately. However, when a final support order is issued, you will receive a retroactive payment dating back to the date that you filed your petition so the sooner you file, the more you will receive in the end. To read more about child support in NY state, you can read a manual prepared by an organization called Her Justice.
1 See, generally, NY Fam Ct Act § 439
Can a child support order be changed?
Maybe. There are two basic ways to try to modify (change) a child support order after it is established:
- either parent can prove that there has been a substantial (significant) change in circumstances.1 (Note: The incarceration of the paying parent might be a substantial change in circumstances that could be a reason for modifying the child support order unless it is due to nonpayment of child support or a criminal offense against you or the child being supported);2 or
- either parent can file without a substantial change in circumstances if:
- three years have passed since the order was entered or last modified; or
- there has been a change in either parent's gross income by 15% or more since the order was entered or modified. (However, if there is a reduction in a parent's income, this will only be considered if it was involuntary and the parent has made thorough attempts to get a job that pays according to his/her education, ability, and experience.)3
Even if the judge modifies the child support order, this will not reduce or erase any overdue payments (called arrears) that have accumulated before the parent filed the modification petition. The unpaid payments will still have to be paid.4
1 NY Dom Rel § 236(B)(7)(d)
2 NY Fam Ct Act § 451(2)(a); NY Dom Rel Law § 236(B)(2)(i)
3 NY Fam Ct Act § 451(2)(b); NY Dom Rel Law § 236(B)(2)(ii)
4 NY Dom Rel Law § 236(B)(2)(iii)