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Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support

Q: How does one parent obtain child support payments?

A: The parent who seeks to obtain child support payments can bring an application in either the Family Court or in a divorce proceeding in the Supreme Court for a “child support order”. A child support order is a court order which states how much and how often child support payments should be made by the non-residential custodial parent to the residential custodial parent. In addition, a child support order may order the non-residential custodial parent to reimburse the other parent for medical expenses, child care expenses, and other unusual or unique expenses related to raising the child. In the Family Court, paternity must first be established before the court will issue a child support order.

Q: How can a Child Support Order be enforced?

A: There are numerous ways in which a child support order can be enforced. The first step is to obtain the order. Once the order is obtained, if the parent obligated to make payments under the order does not comply with the order, the parent who is obligated to pay child support can have his or her wages garnished. This type of order is served on the non-residential custodial parent’s employer and it authorizes the employer to deduct child support payments from this individual’s salary.

There is an agency in New York called the Child Support Enforcement Bureau. This agency also participates in issuing orders and garnishing wages, for the purpose of collecting child support. This child support agency also has the ability to obtain tax refunds from the non-residential custodial parent to pay arrears, or back child support payments.

The residential custodial parent can also bring an enforcement proceeding in either the Family Court or the Supreme Court and ask that the parent who is not paying his or her child support be arrested and incarcerated. Under this enforcement remedy, the parent who doesn’t pay child support can be kept in jail for up to six months for contempt of court. In addition, courts have the ability to suspend driver’s licenses, professional licenses and other licenses of individuals who refuse to make their child support payments.

Q: How do you change or modify child support payments?

A: The court procedure to change or modify child support payments involves bringing an application to obtain a modification of a prior order of either the Family Court or the Supreme Court, to the respective court, that issued the order. The person seeking to modify the child support payments must show there has been substantial change in his or her financial circumstances. In addition, this parent must show the increase or decrease in their wages was not caused by any action which was their fault. If the parent can show he or she lost their job, was downsized, has become disabled and/or has used due diligence to obtain alternate employment, they can be successful in modifying downward the amount of their child support payments.

If the residential custodial parent can show a substantial change in their circumstances and the non-residential custodial parent has had an upward increase in his or her wages, the residential custodial parent can receive an increase in child support payments.

The courts require both parents to submit tax returns, W-2 statements, pay stubs and other evidence showing their earnings in these proceedings regarding the issue of modifying child support payments.

Q: When does child support end?

A: Child support ends in New York State when the child is emancipated. Emancipation occurs in New York State when the child is 21 years of age. However, if the child should marry, join the military, live outside the marital residence and/or be self-supporting, child support payments should end after the child reaches 18 years of age.

Q: What happens if my son or daughter simply moves from the mother’s residence to my residence? In that situation, can I simply stop making child support payments?

A: No, you must take legal action and bring a downward modification of child support proceeding. In the proceeding you would explain to the court you are supporting the child or children because they now live with you and their mother would no longer be entitled to child support payments. In addition, you could also simultaneously bring a proceeding to collect child support from the mother. Once the children stop living with her, she will no longer be the residential custodial parent. You will be. Therefore you would be entitled to receive child support payments from her.

Q: If my child obtains a full time position and is self-supporting, do I automatically simply stop making child support payments?

A: No. You may be entitled to the elimination of your child support payments. However, the procedure is you would have to bring a proceeding in either the Family Court or the Supreme Court and request your child support payments be terminated due to the emancipation of your child. Your initial child support payments were caused by a court entering an order against you. Until there is a new order suspending the prior order or eliminating it, you would be legally obligated to comply with the prior order. You should start the downward modification of child support proceeding as soon as your child becomes self supporting. The child support will continue until you bring the proceeding.

Q: If I am fired from my job for cause or I simply quit my job, will the courts grant a downward modification of my child support?

A: Generally speaking, no. If you are fired for cause from your position, or you quit your job, courts will usually not reduce your child support payments. This will create a dilemma for you. You will be forced to make child support payments based on income you no longer have. You would need to bring a court proceeding to reduce your child support payments.

Q: If I am unhappy with my current employment and decide to make a career change where I will be receiving less income, will I be entitled to have a reduction of my child support payments?

A: No. Anytime you take voluntary action which has the impact of lowering the income you receive from employment, courts will generally not agree to lower your child support payments.

Q: If due to cut backs at my company, I am downsized to a lower paying job, can I receive a reduction in my child support payments?

A: Yes. You can have your child support payments reduced if you can prove to the court the reduction in your wages was not related to any action you had taken or failed to take.