Every parent knows that the costs to raise a child can be mind-numbing. No attempts at financial planning can truly prepare parents for every cost associated with child rearing. From diapers and formula to football camp and college, children are expensive. CNN Money estimates the cost to raise a child over 18 years to be $245,340.00. As the NYC metropolitan area is among the most expensive places to live in America and Westchester has the highest property taxes in the country, it is likely that the cost
to raise a child is significantly higher for parents residing in Westchester. With this in mind, when faced with the need to obtain child support, it is important to understand the law and to prepare properly to obtain the highest child support award possible. When considering child support, a few common questions are:Where do I File a Request for Child Support?Petitions seeking child support are filed with the Family Court located in the county where the child resides. Westchester County has three Family Courts located in White Plains, New Rochelle and Yonkers. The Family Court has no filing fees and programs exist for those seeking assistance who do not have funds to hire an attorney or who are victims of domestic violence.How Can I Prepare for Court? Assemble any information about your finances and the other parent’s finances. The court will need to know the assets, debts, income and expenses of both parents. The court will request that you provide at least three years of tax returns and paystubs, savings and checking account bank statements, credit card statements, loan documents, leases and deeds. The originals plus two copies should be brought to the court.How Much Child Support Can I Get? In New York, the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) requires that standard guidelines be used by courts throughout the state to calculate child support. Under the CSSA, there are two types of child support that can be awarded to the parent with custody of the children:1) Basic Child Support2) Child Support Add-OnsBasic child support is an amount which the parent who has custody of the children will receive on a monthly basis. This amount is calculated through a formula contained in the CSSA located at https://www.childsupport.ny.gov/dcse/pdfs/cssa_2015.pdf. Generally, the basic child support award will be a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income: 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children and no less than 35% for five or more children. Add-Ons including child care, child health insurance and unreimbursed medical expenses, and educational expenses may then be awarded in addition to the basic child support. The Add-Ons amounts awarded usually align with both parents’ pro rata share of the combined parental income.What if My Ex Does Not Pay?Child support awards may be paid directly to the custodial parent or through the child support collections office in the county where the child resides. Unless special circumstances exist, it is preferable for the payment to be made through the government office so that any failures to pay may be immediately acted upon and result in: (1) intercept of Federal and State Income Tax Refund or lottery winnings, (2) report to credit bureaus, (3) seizure of bank accounts and other assets, (4) Driver’s License suspension, (5) Passport denial, (6) liens against real estate, and (7) incarceration.Like anything else in life, good preparation is the key to understanding child support and using that knowledge to work for you. In addition to the information provided in this article, further useful data on child support may be found at the New York State Court System website located at http://www.nycourts.gov/.