New York Court Discusses Grounds for Modifying a Child Support Obligation

Typically, when a child support order is entered, it aims to meet the child’s needs at that time. As circumstances change, however, it may become necessary to modify a parent’s financial obligation. The court can only consider certain factors in determining what constitutes an appropriate increase in support, though, as demonstrated by a recent New York case. If you are subject to a child support order and you or your co-parent wish to seek a modification, it is critical to meet with a trusted New York child support attorney to assess what evidence the court may weigh in making a determination.

Factual History

It is reported that the mother and the father married in 2001 and had two children. They decided to divorce and, in 2009, entered into a stipulation that was incorporated into their divorce judgment. Pursuant to the stipulation, the mother had residential custody of the children, and the father agreed to pay approximately $800 per month in child support. The stipulation also stated that the parties would confer and agree on extra-curricular activity costs.

Allegedly, in 2015 the father consented to a $1,000 monthly increase to his support obligation. In 2018, the mother sought a second increase, arguing that it was warranted because of increased costs due to the children’s participation in extracurricular activities. The court granted the mother’s petition, ordering the father to pay approximately $650 per week. The father appealed.

Explaining the Basis for a Child Support Obligation

The New York Child Support Standards Act establishes a formula for determining child support by applying a statutory percentage that is based on the number of children who need support to the combined income of the parents up to a certain limit. If the combined parental income exceeds the statutory limit, the court can apply statutory percentages in determining an appropriate support amount, or the factors set forth in the Family Court Act or both.

Regardless of what method the court employs, if it orders a support obligation in excess of the statutory cap, it must provide a clear explanation of the basis for doing so. The explanation should reflect careful consideration of the court’s basis for exercising its discretion and explain the circumstances of the parties and why there should or should not be a departure from the statutory percentage.

In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court erred in finding that the cost of the children’s extracurricular activities was a sufficient basis for imposing a child support obligation in excess of the statutory cap. Specifically, the appellate court explained that the terms of the stipulation created a contract that was binding on both parties. The court found that the plain terms of the stipulation demonstrated that extracurricular costs were to be considered apart from any child support obligation. As such, the trial court ruling was reversed.

Speak to a Trusted New York Attorney

Although at times it may become necessary to modify a child support order, not all information is relevant in determining what constitutes an appropriate obligation. If you or your co-parent intend to seek a modification of a support order, it is prudent to speak to an attorney.  Ksenia Rudyuk is a trusted New York child support attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you seek a favorable outcome. You can contact Ms. Rudyuk through the form online or at 212-706-2001 to schedule a meeting.

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