Align NYS Child Support’s Broken Formula with the rest of the U.S.

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Dear NY family law legislators,

Simply put, while most States calculate child support based on a decreasing percentage TABLE on NET income from BOTH parents, New York State uses a (high) FIXED percentage on GROSS income. The result is crippling finances of the otherwise middle-class non-custodial parents whose ability to provide for his children and him/herself becomes impaired, at the cost of the children’s well-being in the spirit of a balanced household.

The solution is to switch to a net income model with a basic child support amounts table based on combined net income much like most other States have implemented. Connecticut, who sits on the national average, is a great example of a well built table with guidelines otherwise comparable with New York State.

The link that follows is a study/comparison of basic child support obligations across the 50 States. The guidelines and resulting obligations vary greatly from one State to another, including neighboring States. The Child Support institution is critical and it must remain so, however, there are (as is often the case) abuses: some States have disregarded simple economics principles and set the standards to unreasonable levels.

Link to the child support by State chart:

The graph shows the deviation of basic child support from the average for each State based on two income levels (lower middle class and higher middle class):
- NY, MA, and WI come up as outliers in the (high) level of child support for upper middle class families.
- TN and OR come up as outliers in the (low level) they set in some cases.

Below is the list of issues with respect to NY, MA, and WI child support levels which are by far the largest outliers:

1- The reason NY, MA, and WI stand out is that these states do not take into account higher taxes paid by higher income earners, in particular NY. They are the only States not to do so.
2- In NY, MA, and WI, the percentage of net income going towards basic child support increases as income increase. I.e. the courts have argued that children's basic needs increase at a higher rate than their parents' income.
3- In NY and MA, the law states that both parents needs to contribute income to the children, in which case the custodian contributing his/her share of the 39% (for two children) of net combined income would not be able to make ends meet for him/herself any better than the non-custodian.
4- The amounts set forth by the States are NOT tied to cost of living or political inclination of the State. For example, when in NY, cross the bridge to NJ to find some of the lowest amounts for support.
5- These high levels of support marginalize non-custodians making them unable to spend money on their children, driving them away to lower cost areas. The courts will even argue that the children need space at the non-custodian for overnights but does not allow the non-custodian the financial means to do so.
6- We note that States are incentivized to order higher amounts of Child Support as federal funds for enforcement is tied to the amounts the State processes in child support collection.
7- These figures are for basic child support only. They do not include add on such as medical and child care expenses. Total child support for two children can run, excluding alimony payments, to more than half of net income when taking into consideration of non-custodian personal health insurance premiums.
8- Massachusetts compensates for allowing overtime not be counted vs child support. Wisconsin does not require childcare add-ons.
9- Massachusetts has faced years of litigation against father's right organizations making the argument that the child support levels created a "castle and shack" situation for separated families.
10- NY Statute states that the courts may deviate from the guidelines when combined income is more that $144k, however, in practice they only do when combined income is more that $300k.
11- In addition NY is a rare state that mandates child support until age 21 instead of 18 or 19, and also a rare State that requires support for educational expenses. Non-custodians who have not been able to save due to the high payments are then faced with the legal obligation, supported by potential jail time, to bear college expenses. Whereas parents who are still together are not required to pay for their children's college.
12- For common, visitation arrangements, the non-custodian have the children three times a week and therefore bear almost half of the meals expenses.
13- Very high amounts of child support kills the non-custodian's economic interest to pursue higher wages, thereby potentially decreasing over time the actual amount of money going towards child support and certainly the family as a whole as they do not seek promotions.
14- There are no legal or statute requirements that the custodian spend the child support funds on the children.
15- Psychologists argue that both parents presence is best for children: the policies of these three States prioritize material comfort over personal contact.

16- In 2017, the National Parents Organization, whose mandate is equal parenting, sponsored a review of the custody and visitation statutes across all 50 States and here again NYS was one of two States to receive the lowest grade of F.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or would like the full study file.

A concerned father


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