New York’s Recent Changes to Family Laws: What You Need to Know

New York’s Recent Changes to Family Laws: What You Need to Know by Joshua Katz

{4:20 minutes to read} Recently, New York has made fast-paced changes that affect family law practitioners. Attorneys and divorce professionals must take these important modifications into account. 

The Child Support Cap and Its Ramifications 

As of March 1st, 2016, the cap—utilized to calculate child support payments—was raised to $143,000 of combined parental income (formerly $141,000). Not that this is a huge increase, but family lawyers must cite the new cap in the calculation language on Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) submissions. 

When determining the child support obligation, courts examine several factors—none more important to “cap thresholds” than the needs of the child. A major consideration in whether or not to consider above-the-cap income is the lifestyle that the child would have enjoyed had the household remained intact.  

If the couple had a long-term marriage, and the child is used to living in a household with a high combined income, the custodial parent is more likely to receive a substantially higher child support award than a couple who merely procreated once and never lived together. 

The cap highlights the question of whether, for example, a noncustodial parent who earns $143,000 in a year should pay the same amount of child support as someone who earns $2,000,000 per year.  

It is worth noting that the “cap” truly is a very soft cap—it is tantamount to the baseball salary cap as opposed to the football salary cap. In general, the presumption is that the cap will be overlooked when calculating child support. Due to this, it is the burden of the noncustodial parent to prove to the court that the cap should be upheld and the court should not consider above-the-cap income in its calculation.  

The courts may also respond differently to the cap depending on the geographic location within the state. In upstate New York, where incomes are generally lower, the cap is taken more seriously than in NYC, where $143,000 does not stretch very far. In NYC, when the income of the parties is barely above the cap, the court will generally ignore the cap when determining child support. 

Moreover, if the court does go above the cap in calculating the support amount, it could result in a sliding scale. For example, the formula utilized is 25% of income for two children up to $143,000, and the court has the discretion to choose a different percentage above the cap; it’s not all or nothing. The court could calculate an obligation at 15% of the above-the-cap income. 

Additional Changes That Affect Current Practice 

Requirements for divorce summons have been updated to include language that advises the defendant about the recently enacted maintenance laws. Every summons now must include:

  • Notice of the grounds for divorce;
  • The relief sought;
  • Notice of health insurance laws upon a divorce;
  • Notice of automatic orders; and now
  • Notice of maintenance guidelines. 

Lawyers, in particular, must be up-to-date on the aforementioned requirements. If not, a summons may be deemed defective, and there may be no jurisdiction over the defendant in a divorce action.

The firm of Plaine & Katz is on the cutting edge—we strive to stay abreast of the latest changes in the laws, and the resulting effects on our clients. Contact us with questions about how policy changes may affect you.

Plaine & Katz, LLP
80-02 Kew Gardens Rd.
Suite # 1050
Kew Gardens, NY 11415

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