When it comes to child support, absent another agreement by the parties, the amount of support required from each parent is dictated by the Child Support Standards Act, or CSSA. The act takes the combined gross income from both parents, minus specific statutory deductions, up to $141,000, and determines what percentage each parent owes based on the percentage of the total that their income accounts for, and how many children the parties have. Each parent will be responsible for their proportionate amount of child support.
While it sounds straightforward in theory, the reality is there are a number of factors that result in a deviation, and thus different results, than under the basic formula. One aspect of deviation is known as “add-ons,” or particular costs that get added onto the basic child support obligation amount, with each parent paying their pro-rata, or proportional, share.
These add-ons, depending on their value, can have a significant impact on your child support payments, so it is important to be aware of what they are and how they work.
The first of these add-ons is Day Care. Today, many parents work full-time outside of the home, and often past school hours, even if their child is old enough to be enrolled in full time education. Domestic Relations Law (DRL) 240 1-b(c)(4) and DRL 240 1-b(c)(6) provide that when a custodial parent is working, in school or educational training (for the purpose of gaining employment) or seeking work, reasonable day care (or later on, with older children, child or after school care) expenses will be allocated based upon each parent’s proportional contribution to their total combined income.
Therefore, if you need daycare or before/after school care for your children due to educational and/or work needs, it is incredibly important that you bring this issue up in your support case, to ensure that the other parent is paying their fair share of childcare expenses.
The second major child support add-on is healthcare expenses. Obviously, the health of your children is extremely important, but healthcare costs can also be significant. While the children may be on one party’s insurance, that does not excuse the other party from paying their share of the cost of providing healthcare. Therefore, under DRL 240 1(d), healthcare costs of the parties’ children are divided based upon the same proportion as each parent’s income is to the total combined parental income. This includes health insurance premiums. Additionally, under DRL 240 1-b(c)(5), the same rule applies for reasonable healthcare costs that are not covered by the children’s insurance provider. It is extremely important to note that unreasonable medical expenses not covered by the child(ren)’s insurance provider, such as knowingly seeing an out-of-plan medical provider when there was an equally qualified in-plan provider (barring an emergency situation) will not be divided proportionally and the cost-incurring parent may have to handle that expense on their own.
The third major child support add-on is educational expenses with respect to the parties’ children. Private school, college, tutoring, summer camp, and extracurricular activities may be proportionately divided between the parties based on their respective percent of contribution to the combined parental income. Here, the court has a lot more discretion with respect to including these costs, and will look at each family’s unique situation, including the family lifestyle prior to the parties’ separation. For example, while private school might be a luxury for one family, for another it would be considered reasonable and expected, especially if the child was previously enrolled. Therefore, if you are seeking to have your child’s educational and extracurricular expenses included as add-ons to divide the cost, it is important to show how these things are necessities or expected items in your child’s education or lifestyle, especially if funding by the other spouse was cut off only after the end of the marriage.
Overall, there are many factors influencing the calculation of a support payment, even within a strict statute like the CSSA. However, it is important to know what you can get included in order to make sure your ex is paying their proportionate share of what your children are entitled to regarding their supervision, health, and education.