Issues caused by Split and Joint Custody on Guideline Support Calculations
Throughout our many years of practice appearing before the Support Magistrates in the
Family Courts located in Westchester County (including White Plains, NY, Yonkers, NY
and New Rochelle, NY), and the surrounding counties, one of the recurring
questions that we are asked by clients is, "How will my
Child Custody Order affect my
Child Support case?"
In order to answer that question, it is important to recognize that the
Child Support Standards Act (CSSA), which is used to
calculate child support and is often referred to as the "guidelines", assumes that all
of the children between a set of parents reside primarily with one of
the parents (typically described as the "custodial parent").
The problem arises when there is Split Custody (where at least one child
resides with each parent) or Joint Custody (where, in this context, the
child or children reside with each parent roughly the same amount of time).
The New York Family Courts treat each circumstance differently when calculating
child support obligations in accordance with the CSSA.
How Split Custody is dealt with in Westchester and the Surrounding Counties
In Split Custody situations, the CSSA may be applied using the statutory
provisions set forth therein. The only difference is that there is an
additional step that was approved by the Appellate Divsion, Third Department
in case of
Riseley v. Riseley. In that case, the Court determined than each parent should be the deemed
the custodial parent for those children residing with them. Then the CSSA
provisions are applied to each household separately, calculating the respective
guideline amounts and statutory percentages. Then, the results of each
calculation are compared against each other with the smaller obligation
being subtracted from the greater one, thereby determining the net obligation
that one parent will have to pay the other.
In any event, the Court will still have discretion under the statute to
use its authority to declare an amount unjust or inappropriate and fix
a more appropriate award.
The Affect of Equal Time in Joint Custody Cases upon Child Support
In the context of this discussion, one must remember that by simply using
the term "Joint Custody" it does not necessarily remove child
support calculations from the CSSA. In fact, when we refer to Joint Custody,
we are usually defining the term in terms of legal decision making. The
sharing of legal decision between the parents would have no impact upon
the need for or amount of support.
That said, there are situations where children reside roughly the same
amount of time with each parent. When this occurs, the parents are providing
basic support for the child during the time the child is with them and
if the incomes of the parents are substantially similar, then a reasonable
conclusion is that child support would not have to be paid.
In situations where one parent has a greater income or resources than the
other parent, the parent with lesser income or resources may have a difficult
time maintaining the lifestyle that the children enjoy while with the
more affluent parent. Unfortunately, there is no standard method employed
in making support calculations in such circumstances. Historically, the
Courts have (1) calculated child support using the CSSA guidelines by
assuming that each parent had custody and then ordering the difference
in the sums; (2) determined the children's reasonable needs and then
apportion financial responsibility between the parents in proportion to
their respective incomes; or (3) fixing child support in accordance with
the guidelines and then using the statutory factors to evaluate whether
or not the amount is unjust or inappropriate, thereby allowing the Court
to deviate either upwards or downwards to arrive at an appropriate amount.
What to do if you are seeking Child Support or are obligated to pay Child Support
Since child support begins to accrue at the time a petition or action is
filed, it is important that you have the assistance of an experienced
Family Law Child Support lawyer, who is knowledgeable in the how child support is calculated and how different
cases are treated in the different Family Courts throughout Westchester
County (including White Plains, NY, Yonkers, NY and New Rochelle, NY),
as soon as possible.
To get immediate assistance and to find out how your finances and rights
should be protected,
Riebling, Proto & Sachs, LLP for a free consultation. Not understanding the process and your rights
may result in incorrect calculations and improper child support orders.