Child Support Arrears
Mr. Darren M. Shapiro has worked throughout the courts of Long Island and New York for several years, assisting his clients with a range of cases, from divorce to child custody, support, orders of protection and more. In the world of family law, emotions are generally running high, but matters can become significantly more complicated in cases where children are involved. After all, it can be difficult for divorcing partners - regardless of their relationship status at the close of their marriage - to make correlating decisions regarding the best interests of their children. One of the most common areas Mr. Shapiro addresses when dealing with clients undergoing divorce, is that of child support. Crucially, child support is not only a concern for divorcing parents - it can be a factor in many legal cases. The courts of New York generally expect both parents to be involved in supporting their children. However, in most circumstances, the non-custodial parent out of the two spouses will be required to pay support for the child by sending money to the custodial parent.
Most people assume that matters of child support are decided to assist the children of divorce in experiencing the same quality of lifestyle after a divorce, as they might have experienced beforehand. However, it's worth noting that the changes to family dynamics that occur as a natural part of divorce may determine that maintaining a specific lifestyle is impossible. When a non-custodial parent fails to pay the child support that has been ordered by the courts of New York, there are many ways for the Support Collection Unit or custodial parent to go about enforcing those payments. If the non-custodial parent owes child support, then that parent will be in arrears. Any arrears that go unpaid that are reduced to judgment will accumulate interest - even if you start paying child support again after a few months.
Mr. Shapiro reminds his clients that for any support orders entered following August 8th, 1987, the Support Collection Unit or other parent can go after a delinquent parent to pay off arrears for twenty years from the default date - regardless of whether the amount in question was reduced to a judgment. If the arrears in question are reduced to a judgment, then the judgment stays in place for twenty years, The statute of limitations to enforce arrears before 1987 was six years. In most circumstances, obligations in regards to child support will be automatically terminated when a minor becomes twenty-one. However, there are circumstances wherein payments might continue - such as those which have been set by agreement to pay beyond the age of 21. What's more, the payment of arrears can continue until those arrears are satisfied, but they are subject to the restrictions imposed by the statute of limitations. When child support is not paid, there is a presumption that the payor is in willful violation of the support order. The burden then shifts to the payor to show that the violation was not willful, if they can. Willful violations are punishable by up to six months incarceration in the discretion of the court.
When payments for child support are issued using the Office of Child Support Enforcement, or the Support Collection Unit, those organizations become responsible for keeping track of exactly how much child support has been collected, and precisely how much is owed. This means that when a parent falls behind on making the payments that have been ordered, the relevant organization will have the authority to take administrative action against that parent through a number of automated processes. In fact, there is the opportunity to take various enforcement actions in order to ensure that the amount owed in arrears is collected.
In some cases, noncustodial parents who have child support orders to think about, and noncustodial parents who only have arrears may be eligible to participate in a program for arrears credit. This program applies to arrears that are only owed to the Department of Social services, and they can reduce the number of arrears owed by around $5,000 a year for the initial three years. In this program, there are no limits for income that are applied to determine eligibility. However, you must make payments in full for your current child support for the period of an entire year. Parents can visit the OCSE website to find out if they qualify for the program.
Most of the time, parents will pay their child support automatically in the form of salary deductions. In some cases, when a parent enters arrears, then their child support payments can be increased temporarily by around 50% above the usual amount - subject to specific maximums on how much can be reasonably taken from a noncustodial parent at any given time. What's more, a tax refund can be sent to the OCSE or the SCU - instead of the delinquent parent in order to pay off amounts that are already past due. If you owe more than two months of current child support, and you have arrears of at least $300, then your financial assets and bank account may be frozen or seized in order to make the necessary payments. If child support is not being paid through salary deductions, then the account of the parent in question could be frozen when the amount owed in arrears is at least $25.
Importantly, as Mr. Shapiro reminds his clients, child support orders are issued by the court according to information that is given at a hearing. This means that if the reason for your arrears is the fact that you are receiving less income, or you have lost employment which leads to a serious change in your circumstances, then you should be able to file a petition with the Family Court to request a modification to the child support order. Under the laws that are currently in place in New York, it is possible to request modification if there has been an involuntary change in your income by a minimum of 15%, you have been incarcerated for reasons besides non-payment of child support or offenses against the child or parent, or you have had a substantial change in your circumstances. Modifications can also be requested if three years have passed since the original order. Importantly, Domestic Relations Law §236 (B)(9)(b)(2) dictates that child support arrears that rise before your request for a modification cannot be annulled or reduced.
To learn more about child support orders in New York, please contact the Law and Mediation Office of Darren M. Shapiro via our online form, or at (516) 333-6555.