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Child Support Where Parents Share Equal Access with the Children

January 4, 2017  | 

{4:00 minutes to read} In New York, case law provides that when parents share equal physical custody of the children, the parent who earns more pays child support to the parent who earns less, based on the Child Support Standards Act.
If there is a great disparity between their incomes, that might make sense. But if there is less than a substantial difference and both parents need to maintain a household for the children, applying the statute can put one parent in financial peril.
Fortunately, in mediation, clients seek a resolution that will work for both of them. Here are some approaches to consider:

Substantially Equal Incomes

If both incomes are substantially equal, costs of housing, food and miscellaneous items could be paid by each parent. Then, the parents can decide what expenses they will share equally, such as clothing, extracurricular activities, tutoring, camp, work-related child care, medical expenses, medical insurance, and whatever other expenses the children incur that the parents think should be shared.

Small Disparity Between Incomes

If there is a small disparity between incomes, then the parties would need to discuss their budgets to see how each can maintain a suitable household. Once it is determined what one party would need from the other in order to pay expenses, including the pro rata cost of the shared expenses, the parties can agree upon an appropriate payment.

Sometimes, clients prefer that this payment not be called maintenance or child support. For some, these designations don’t seem to fit. Many choose to call it a housing supplement as a more accurate description.

Clients will also need to consider whether the need for that additional payment will continue or, just as with child support, change based upon future circumstances.

Substantial Disparity Between Incomes

If there is a substantial disparity between incomes, maintenance (spousal support) would be discussed. Also, since spousal maintenance may be needed for a shorter term than the support for children, child support would be discussed and determined as well.

It may, in fact, work out that payment of child support by the guidelines makes sense for them. In this scenario, the parent who receives child support pays for all of the clothing and other agreed upon expenses rather than the parties paying them equally. Another option would be to decide to make a lesser child support payment and then share the children’s expenses pro rata.

Payment Options

There are several options as to how agreed-upon expenses can be covered:

  1. Use a joint credit card. Each party then pays his/her share at the end of the month.
  2. Create a shared bank account from which each party is reimbursed for the expenses they have paid for the children.
  3. Use a shared spreadsheet on which each parent accounts for the payments they made and then is reimbursed by the other.

I also discuss building periodic check-ins for both the parenting plan and support payments, especially in cases of equal parenting. Because clients need to work so closely together and be especially cognizant of how the plan is working for the children, they will want to review their plan and support on a regular basis.

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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