There are legislative guidelines for child support based on the premise that both parents share responsibility to support their children.
The court may apply a numerical formula to determine the level of child support to be paid by the parent who does not have custody. The law establishes a formula to calculate the basic child support obligation for the first $136,000 of the parent’s combined income. Under the Child Support Guidelines formula the combined parental income up to $136,000 (after deduction for Medical, FICA and certain local taxes) is multiplied by a “child-support percentage” based on the number of children (for example, 17 percent for one child, 25 percent for two children, and 29 percent for three children). The application of income in excess of $136,000, to the formula, is in the discretion of the court.
In addition to basic child support, the custodial parent may be entitled to receive additional funds for the cost of child care, medical expenses and educational expenses of the child.
In determining the gross income of a parent, prior to applying the child support guidelines, the court will consider (in addition to wages) such items as dependent income, workman’s compensation, disability, retirement and social security benefits. The court will also look carefully at self-employment deductions such as “travel and entertainment”. The court may, in its discretion, “impute” income from other resources of a parent, such as employment “perks”, fringe benefits and money, goods or services provided by relatives and friend.
Where the court finds that applying the Guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate, the court will determine the amount of child support to be paid by considering multiple factors, including the parent’ financial resources and those of the child, the physical and emotional health of the child and his/her special needs and aptitudes, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage or household not been dissolved and the tax consequences to the parties.
Child support may be modified (upward or downward) upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances, the passage of three years or if there has been a change in either party’s gross income by fifteen percent or more since the child support order was entered, last modified or adjusted. A reduction in income would not ordinarily be considered as a ground for modification unless it was involuntary and the party has made diligent attempts to secure employment, commensurate with his or her education, ability and experience.