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Modifying a New York Child Support Order

This past May, supermodel Linda Evangelista and French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault finally agreed on a figure for his support of their six-year-old son.  Although the precise amount was undisclosed by the Manhattan court, sources indicate that Evangelista had originally sought $46,000 per month and left the court that day with a smile on her face.

The average New Yorker with an average income, however, doesn’t have these problems. Child support is determined by multiplying the parents’ combined adjusted gross income by percentages set forth under the Child Support Standards Act, otherwise known as the guidelines. The current percentages are:

  • 17 percent for one child, 25 percent for two children
  • 29 percent for three children
  • 31 percent for four children
  • No less than 35 percent for five or more children

A standard chart included in the guidelines is used as a reference when child support payments are set.  The court may also take into account other factors such as a child’s special needs and the needs of other children who are not included in the support order.

When the combined parental income amount exceeds the highest income level of the guidelines ($136,000 as of January 31, 2012), the court is permitted — but not required — to continue using the percentages. In all cases, judges use their discretion to determine an appropriate support amount that keeps your child’s standard of living in line with what it would have been if your marriage had not been dissolved.

If circumstances change, either you or your spouse may petition the court for modification of an existing child support order if:

  • Three years have passed since the last support order, if order was created prior to October 2010
  • Your income has varied by 15 percent or more (note that the courts will carefully scrutinize a request to have your support amount lowered in this case and may demand proof that the decrease in your income was involuntary), if order was created prior to October 2010
  • There has been a substantial change in circumstances

Other factors that will determine a new child support amount include changes in educational expenses or family health care costs. While some courts take a new marriage and children into consideration, others may refuse to accommodate what is deemed your choice to take on greater financial responsibilities.

It is best to seek legal advice before signing any agreement. To learn more about how child support in New York is determined during divorce, contact our office for a consultation.

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