The most perfect standards call for maximum discretion, such as “always be fair,” “do the right thing,” and “decide in the best interests of the child.” The problem with such standards has always been that discretion is usually vested in imperfect people, so the results are unpredictable and random. In order to standardize results, there has been a movement toward formulas and factors. Child support has become one of the areas that is now primarily determined by formula. Every state in the United States is required to have a formulaic approach. The problem with formulas is that, while they may be predictable, they do not work well in all cases. This is particularly true in high-net worth cases. As a result, there are exceptions to the formulaic approach, which are complicated and uncertain.
In New York, child support is calculated in proportion to the income of both parents. Only the non-custodial parent is ordered to make child support payments. When analyzing the income of both parents, the court will examine federal tax returns in order to calculate child support. Child support orders can be modified if the amount is too high or if the circumstances of the paying parent change. A serious illness or loss of employment could be grounds to pursue a child support modification. Failure to pay court-ordered child support is a serious matter triggering numerous possible remedies. In most cases, child support is paid until the child reaches the age of 21. Our lawyers have been among those who are working within the system to make it work better, and part of a small group who have successfully challenged the formulas to develop a growing body of case law that allows deviations from the formulas in appropriate cases.