When two parents are not living together, the noncustodial parent must pay child support to the custodial parent. A custodial parent is a parent who takes care of the child most or all of the time. This money is meant to provide for the child’s needs, such as clothing, shelter and food. When parents appear in court, the judge or support magistrate may also order the non-custodial parent to pay a share of child care, summer camp and educational expenses. A parent may also have to pay the custodial parent a portion of his or her child’s unreimbursed medical costs, like doctor co-pays.

It is important that one pay child support so that his or her child has the necessary resources to grow up healthily. How much child support does one pay? In general, the court looks at both parents’ income. If the combined parental income is below $141,000, then the court will use the chart below to determine how much child support the parent must pay. There are certain income or expense deductions that the court applies before consulting the chart below.

Number of children being supported Percentage of gross net income to pay yearly to custodial parent
1 17%
2 25%
3 29%
4 31%
5 (or more) 35% (at least)


When one has a child support order, one can collect child support through the Support Collection Unit (SCU) or independently. The SCU receives payment from the non-custodial parent and gives it to the custodial parent. You can ask your lawyer about the advantages and disadvantages of each option to pay and collect child support. If the parent of your child does not pay ordered child support, then there are many actions that you, the court and SCU can take to pressure the non-paying parent to pay up. If you have difficulty making payments or if you are not receiving payments, then you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to remedy your situation.

If a parent does not pay child support, then, under DRL § 244-c, a judge or support magistrate can:

  • Order the arrest and incarceration of a parent
  • Place a lien on personal property, like house (If a house with a lien is sold, then sale proceeds must be paid to the lienholder before the property holder, thus benefiting the custodial parent and his or her child.)
  • Order a money judgment with interest
  • Order the non-compliant parent to pay up to three years’ of child support in advance
  • Suspend licenses issued by the government
    • Driver’s license (although the court may issue an exception for the parent to drive to and from work)
    • Commercial driver’s license (CDL)
    • License to practice Law
    • Medical license
    • Other business and professional licenses
    • Hunting License
    • Fishing License
    • Gun License
    • Teaching license
    • Restaurant license
    • Liquor license
    • Other state-issued licenses
    • New York City-issued licenses
  • Require the parent to take a work-related class (STEP class) to help a non-paying parent find a job if he or she is unemployed
  • *The following actions can be taken by SCU or a judge or magistrate:
  • Increase regular child support amounts so that the non-compliant parent pays the arrears
  • Seize a state tax refund, a federal tax refund, portions of unemployment benefits, and/or lottery prizes
  • Seize bank account(s) and/or retirement account(s)
  • Report the arrears to a credit bureau
  • Prevent the parent from getting a new passport or renewing a passport; revoking a passport

If you are owed child support, then you should speak to an attorney. If you are owed child support from someone who is simply not paying even though he or she can, then that person may be in willful default. If someone quits their job or takes a lower-paying job of his or her own free will, then that person may also be in willful default. If someone is in willful default, then he or she shall need to pay legal fees for the custodial parent.

If you have lost your job, taken a pay cut, taken on a new position with a lower salary for reasons beyond your control, then you may be able to file for a downward modification of child support. An experienced attorney can help you change the amount of child support you pay, provided that the reason for this change fall under the legal guidelines.