Child Support Standards Act: The Basics
I remember when the Child Support Standards Act (“CSSA”) was adopted in New York in 1989. It was a radical departure from how child support had been determined in the past, and not all matrimonial attorneys welcomed it with open arms. There were many predictions of disastrous results, but the statute soon came to be accepted.
How Does It Work?
- Combine both parents’ incomes up to the statutory “cap,” which in 2014 is $141,000.
- Apply the appropriate percentage below, to the income, up to the cap:
17% for one child
25% for two children
29% for three children
31% for four children
35% for five or more children
- Lastly, you determine the percentage of the payor’s income to the combined income, and that percentage is then applied to the total child support figure which becomes the “presumptively correct” amount of child support to be paid to the custodial parent.
For example: 3 child household
Step 1: Father’s income: $75,000; Mother’s income: $50,000; Combined Income: $125,000
Step 2: 3 children = 29% multiplier; 0.29 (multiplier) X $125,000 = $36,250
Step 3: $75,000/$125,000 = 60%; $36,250*0.60 = $21,750
The statutory cap increases by the cost of living. You can find the current cap along with a chart giving you the amount of total child support based upon the number of children at Child Support Standards.
What Constitutes Income?
The question of what constitutes income can lead to some debate. It is meant to be as broad as possible, and so it includes not only wages and income as should be included in an income tax return but any other income that may exist. In addition, a Court can impute income to either party and also include certain other expenses that a self-employed person might deduct.
On the other hand, the statute deducts from income some common items such as:
- Social security
- Yonkers and New York City taxes
- Maintenance that is going to be paid to a current spouse
- Child support (per an existing order) paid to a child who is not part of the current matter
Along with some other not so common deductions, as listed in the statute.
So, given the definitions of income, it is easier to apply the statute in cases where the parties are both W-2 employees with fairly steady incomes. It is not so easy to apply to parties who are self-employed, unemployed or depend on gifts in lieu of income.
In a future post, I’ll address how parties can opt out of the CSSA in a mediated agreement and make an agreement that best suits their families.
Additional questions about CSSA? Please feel free to give us a call or leave your question in the comments box below.