Even after parents are divorced, there will still be essential matters to figure out. On top of dividing their property and debts, alimony, and child custody decisions, child support will also be an important aspect of the divorce. For those going through the divorce process for the first time, it is natural to have questions about New York child support laws. Parents often wonder how long they will need to pay child support. 

How Long Do Parents Have to Pay Child Support in New York?

New York child support laws are found in the Domestic Relations Law, commonly called the “Child Support Standards Act” (CSSA). This law determines how much child support each parent has to pay and for how long. In most states, parents do not have to continue paying for child support once a child turns 18. New York is an exception to the general rule. In New York state, a parent required to pay child support must pay that child support until the age of 21.

Parents must continue paying child support until the child turns 21 years old, whether or not the child goes to college or trade school. There are some exceptions, but there is a presumption that a child is not self-supporting yet because they live at home with the custodial parent and attend college full-time until they are 21.


Emancipation and Child Support in New York

If a child becomes legally emancipated, child support can end earlier than the age of 21. Emancipation occurs when a child no longer lives with the parents and is self-supporting. In New York, emancipation can happen when a child is under 21 and:

  • Gets married
  • Joins the military
  • Completes four years of college
  • Is at least 18 years old and works full-time to support themselves. Vacation, summer, or seasonal jobs do not count a self-supporting jobs
  • If a child leaves home and ends their relationship with the parents unless the reason has to do with being abused, neglected, or other similar issues

New York courts cannot order a parent to pay child support past 21 years of age. However, it is common for parents to agree to extend child support to 22 If the child is still in college full-time and has not graduated yet.


The Amount of Child Support Payments Can Change Over Time

During the divorce proceedings, the court will typically order one parent to pay child support. They will state how much child support the parent needs to pay. The court sets the amount of child support, but the amount of child support payments can change over time. Under New York state law, modifications can be made every three years for child support. These modifications are intended to address changes in income and circumstances. A modification can be requested by the parent paying the child support or the parent receiving child support at any time. 

The parent petitioning the court to change the amount of child support will need to show that there has been a change of 15% or greater in the parent’s income. Suppose a parent gets a new job or raises with a significant salary increase. In that case, the parent’s custody of the children does not have to wait until the three-year mark to ask the court to modify the child support payment amount. During the coronavirus pandemic, many parents have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, losing a significant portion of their income. Parents who have had a 15% or greater change in their income do not have to wait for the next three-year window to ask the court to modify their child support payments.


Continuation of Education and Child Support

Many child support disputes involve whether a parent is required to help pay for a child’s expenses after graduating from high school. If a child continues his or her education past high school, a parent can be ordered to pay for part of the college expenses. Whether a child is going to college is usually made several years before the child graduates from high school. Children will need to attend classes to prepare for college exams or take pre-college classes for credit. A court can order the parent to contribute to a child’s educational expenses.

However, this amount of money is not based on the actual cost of college. If a child goes to a private or out-of-state school, the tuition will be very high for most families. The amount required would be unreasonable for a parent to be expected to pay. New York courts often use a SUNY Cap to assist middle and lower-class families. The SUNY Cap will limit the amount that one parent may be ordered to pay regardless of where a child chooses to go to school. 

The cap will set a limit for the amount that a parent will pay based on the cost of sending a child to a SUNY School. This cap is not based on a set amount, and it is not automatic. If a parent’s circumstances change and the parents do not have enough money to afford more than SUNY Cap, the judge can order the parent to pay more than they would have to with the cap. Additionally, the SUNY Cap does not have a set amount since the tuition at different schools in the SUNY system varies on the school and program. 


Contact a Bronx Child Support Attorney Today

Many people assume that the amount of child support they have to pay will always remain the same. However, if your circumstances have changed, you can petition the court to change the amount of child support you have to pay. If you have questions about child support, the Law Offices of Jayson Lutzky are here to help. Contact Jayson Lutzky today to schedule your initial consultation.