While the number of issues is substantial, one situation that comes up periodically, is the one where the non-residential parent earns a substantial income, placing the combined parental income well in excess of the basis economic support under the Child Support Standards Act. While the income limit for basic economic support under the CSSA is about to increase substantially, what happens in situations where the nonresidential parent earns several hundred thousands dollars or more per year?
In a recent decision, Jackson v. Tompkins, 2009 N.Y. Slip. Op. 06550 (2nd Dept. 2009), the Appellate Division, Second Department, held that in high income cases, appropriate determination under F.C.A. §413(1)(f) for an award of child support on parental income in excess of $80,000 should be based upon child’s actual needs and amount required for child to live an appropriate lifestyle, rather than upon wealth. See, Brim v. Combs, 25 A.D.3d 691, 693 (2nd Dept. 2006). The Appellate Division affirmed the Family Court’s order which directed that the father pay $6,700 in monthly child support.
The above decision is consistent with the prior cases, such as Cassano, and its progeny. The Appellate Division cited Brim v. Combs in reaching its holding. That case makes for an interesting reading since the respondent in Brim v. Combs was Sean “Puffy” Combs. In Brim, the mother’s net worth statement and her extensive testimony at the hearing established that her expenses related to the child were $19,148.74 per month, exclusive of the child’s educational, health, medical, dental, school transportation, school supplies/books, security, and summer camp expenses, which in any case are paid by the father. The court further noted that this amount was deemed admitted as fact by the father due to his failure to comply with the compulsory financial disclosure requirements of Family Court Act § 424-a. Accordingly, the Appellate Division held that the Family Court erred in awarding $35,000 in monthly child support to the mother. Instead, the mother should have been awarded monthly child support in the sum of $19,148.74 to satisfy the child’s actual needs and to afford him an appropriate lifestyle (see Family Ct Act § 413).
Thus, if you earn a substantial income and you are obligated to pay child support, your family law attorney would do well to know what are the child’s needs and what are the actual expenses associated with child, and be prepared to challenge any unsubstantiated claims at a hearing.