Pursuant to New York Law, parents have a duty to support their children up until they are 21 years old. There is not only the basic child support, but also “extras,” such as medical & dental premiums, uncovered and unreimbursed medical and dental expenses, tutors, extra-curricular activities, private school, and so on. Often times, support arrangements can be initially worked out by agreement, but as time goes on, the parties’ financial circumstances can change, and in some instances can change dramatically.
A person who has suffered a loss of employment or other dramatic changes often times believes that simply filing a downwards modification petition will lighten his or her child support burden. The Family Court, where many of these petitions are heard, use Judicial Officers called Support Magistrates, who handle nothing but child support and spousal support, all day, every day. Each of them, having dealt with hundreds, if not thousands of cases, are well attuned to the reasons for a downwards modification. What the petitioner in these proceedings does not know, is that there are several other factors which must be considered. The Support Magistrates and the Law consider these factors key in granting a downwards modification.
One of those criteria is that losing employment is not enough to show a material changes in circumstances. That is because the legal standard for establishing the child support amount is about what a person is “capable of earning,” rather than just what they are earning at the present time. In other words, it is not enough to prove that your income has been reduced, but proof must be addressed that there is no opportunity to obtain the same level income from some other income or job. Thusly, many petitioners lose their downwards modification applications because they did not understand or have knowledge of the standards a Support Magistrate uses. Petitioners must have sufficient time to create a case which a Support Magistrate will acknowledge. This takes careful planning and given sufficient time, can be organized into a successful presentation.