In New York State, child support is calculated pursuant to the Child Support Standards Act ("CSSA"). Generally, a three-step method is used for determining the parents' basic child support obligation. The first step is the calculation of the "combined parental income". Second, the Court then multiplies the "combined parental income" up to $136,000 by a percentage which is determined by the number of children in the household (i.e, one child- 17%, 2 children-
25%, 3 children- 29%, etc). The basic child support obligation is then allocated between the
parents on a pro-rata basis according to their share of the total income. Third, where combined income exceeds $136,000, the Court may allocate additional child support based upon certain factors contained in the statute.
Once calculated, child support is generally paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. However, what happens in shared custody cases where each party technically has custody of the child(ren) for one-half the time? The Court of Appeals answered this question in Bast v. Rosso.If, 91 N.Y.2d 723, 675 N.Y.S.2d 19 (1998).
In Bast, supra, both parties were practicing attorneys. In July 1990, the parties separated and in February 1992 they entered into a custody and visitation schedule whereby they agreed to a "shared time allocation". In April 1993, the Court held a hearing with respect to child support.
The Father argued that the Court should use the "proportional offset formula" "which would reduce the Father's child support obligation based upon the amount of time he spends with his daughter." The Court rejected the Father's argument, noting that it was incumbent upon the trial court to use the three-step method for determining child support. After this calculation, the Court is free to determine whether or not the basic child support obligation is "unjust or inappropriate" because of the shared custodial arrangement and may utilize any one of a number of factors contained in the statute to reallocate each party's share of the basic child support obligation.
Additionally, the Courts have held that in shared custody cases the parent who has the greatest pro rata share of the child support obligation will be deemed the "noncustodial" parent for purposes of child support regardless of whether there is a shared custody arrangement. As such, the payor parent must pay his or her child support obligation to the other parent unless the Court determines that this arrangement would be "unjust or inappropriate". In such case, the Court would be free to fashion an award which would be "just and appropriate".
If you have children and are contemplating divorce, call Jane K. Cristal, P.C. an experienced divorce attorney will explain the different types of custody and child support arrangements.