As anyone that has had to deal with child support in New York knows, the system is very broken. Things that make great sense on paper, such as the Child Support Guidelines, fail when put into practice. In more than twenty years of practicing family law, I have seen hundreds of heartbreaking results and just as many decisions that are, quite simply, wrong.
New York Courts treat the Child Support “guidelines” as if they are chiseled in granite. The results of that application very often fall at either end of the spectrum of horror. Fathers/payors who are on the lower end of the income scale have no money for gas to go pick up the children and certainly no funds to be able to do anything with their children after guidelines support is taken. Fathers/payors in the mid-range of income pay far more than the child’s actual needs, resulting in what might as well be called alimony for the custodial parent.
To make it worse, there is no way to assure that the child support payment is used for the child. If I had a dollar for every time a Father came to me with deep upset that the mother has a new outfit and new nails every child support day while their child has holes in their sneakers and pants, well, I would have far too many dollars.
Then, we have the presumption that the 17% due from the custodial parent is simply paid for the child’s benefit “in house.” In fairness, there are many cases where that may well be true, but in reality, it is a fantasy. By way of example, take two parents, never married, earning the same amount. 17% results in $156.00 per week per parent. Proof of the child’s needs (6 years old) shows that all needs of the child are $68.00 a week, yet $312.00 is the New York “guidelines” amount of child support. There are families of four living on $312.00 a week! That amount is ridiculous, yet the courts will not find it unjust. It will be ordered. It will not be spent on the child, and everyone knows it.
I have spent a couple of years working with attorneys in other states doing Family Law work and have seen some much more viable applications of the “guidelines,” where they are actually only guidelines rather that granite chiseled rules:
- Some states take the child support percentage out of net income!
- Some states allow child support to be put into trusts if payee is fiscally irresponsible!
- Some states consider the issue of overpayment being in the nature of alimony, and address it in the interest of whether it is “fair and reasonable.”
- For now, we will just think of these different options elsewhere.
Think about how many people New York’s child support standards and its application damage. Not just the paying parent, but the children in that it so often breaks the father-child relationship. Maybe that did not happen to you, but recognize all of those parents where that was and will continue to be the result. Hundreds of thousands of people are impacted negatively by all of this because the system is broken.
It is well past time for joining together on a statewide basis, all of us that want change that benefits our children and parents rather than tearing them apart, impoverishing them or forcing payment far beyond the needs of the child.
It is also very important to note that custodial parents did not set the standards for child support and are not responsible for the amount awarded them. Surely those receiving child support are responsible for spending it on the child’s needs and are equally responsible to participate in establishing a positive relationship with the other parent by not accepting far more in child support than the child needs. Everyone has a choice to make child support payments fair, reasonable and toward the intended purpose, except, of course, the one paying support. They remain at the mercy of the courts and the other parent.
Laws and the application of those laws are not easily or quickly changed. That does not mean that giving up is the answer. The answer is to keep trying to force the courts to do the right thing. When the child’s full needs are covered by the custodial parent’s required contribution to child support, then why do our courts make a child support award for $150/week when it is not needed for the child? Yet, that is what happens. Proof of the child’s needs becomes a completely irrelevant factor in determining a child support award when that is the only relevant issue. New York child support must be fixed.
If you need to discuss any child support matter, please contact Diana to set up a free telephone conference using the form below or 315-565-2760 for call or text.