A Guide to Child and Spousal Support in New York

Many people consider spousal support to be the remnant of a prior age. However, even in the modern age, one spouse frequently pauses their career in order to raise the children produced in a marriage. The major change in the modern day is that it is no longer a given that the wife will be designated to raise the children.

Purpose of Child and Spousal Support

The purpose of spousal support or “maintenance” (formerly called “alimony”) is to both maintain lifestyle for the spouse who relied upon the other’s income, and to enable the supported spouse to re-enter training or educational tracks. Sometimes the courts will order temporary maintenance before a divorce is concluded to address short-term financial situations.

In New York, there is a presumptive temporary maintenance formula that the court is expected to follow or deviate from, but there is currently no formula for computing maintenance after the divorce is final. Legislation has been proposed in the past to create a maintenance formula, but it has never passed, mostly, because there can be tremendous differences in family circumstances, and many believe it is important that the Courts be able to apply their discretion to each family that comes before them.

The Temporary Support Formula

While the court will take many factors into account, the calculation of temporary spousal support in New York is pursuant to a “presumptive” formula. This means that if a Court does not follow the formula, it must explain in its decision, why it is deviating. Here is a link for the Temporary Spousal Maintenance Guidelines Calculator used by the Courts: https://www.nycourts.gov/divorce/calculator.pdf

Child Support

The spouse who will be the primary caregiver to the children in a marriage is typically the Supported spouse and the one who will receive child support payments. Usually the parent who spends more time with the child(ren) is considered the “residential custodian” of the child(ren) and the one who will receive child support from the other parent. However, increasingly, parents are dividing their children’s time equally. What happens in that case? Under existing New York Law, unless the parties agree otherwise, where the children are spending equal time with their parents, the parent who earns less money is deemed the “residential custodian” of the child(ren) and the parent earning more money will be the parent ordered to pay child support. Often, parents spending equal time with their children will agree to different ways of paying for the children’s expenses, but if they can’t agree, the parent earning more money will be the one who pays.

The amount of child support is computed by a statutory formula. Here is a link which allows you to compute child support in most cases, however, as with the formula for temporary maintenance, a court is permitted to vary from the amount computed by the formula as long as the court explains why in its decision: https://www.childsupport.ny.gov/dcse/pdfs/cssa_2014.pdf