When Can I Stop Paying Child Support in New York?

When Does Child Support End in New York?

In New York, child support payments (including basic support and payments for college expenses) are typically paid until your child turns 21 years old. Nevertheless, support payments can be terminated if a child is emancipated (which means the child is self-supporting and no longer lives with their parents).

A child (under 21 years old) can become emancipated if they:

  • Join the military.
  • Are married.
  • Are between 17 and 21 years old and leave their parents’ home and sever their relationship (excluding instances where the child leaves to escape neglect, abuse, or other similar issues).
  • Are at least 18 years old and work full-time to support themselves.

Under New York Domestic Relations Law § 240-D, a parent can be required to continue paying child support, if their child has a developmental disability, until they turn 26 years old. New York Mental Hygiene Law S 1.03 defines developmental ability as a disability that:

  • can be attributed to an intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, neurological impairment, familial dysautonomia, autism, or Prader-Willi syndrome, or any other condition that closely relates to intellectual disability,
  • originates before the person turns 22 years old,
  • has continued or is expected to continue indefinitely, and
  • impacts a person’s ability to function within society substantially.

Can I Stop Paying Support If I Don’t Have Visitation Rights?

Visitation and child support orders are independent of one another; you must pay court-ordered child support regardless of your ability to see or visit your child. However, you can take legal action against the other parent if they do not allow you to have visitation and you have court-ordered visitation privileges. You cannot withhold (or stop paying) child support, though, or you may face consequences.

Consequences of Not Paying Child Support

If you have past-due child support payments, you can face serious consequences and inconveniences because of enforcement actions taken against you. Enforcement actions are either:

  • administrative (which do not require court appearances), or
  • judicial (which involves court hearings).

The consequences of administrative (or automated) enforcement actions are as follows.

  • You can be required to pay a larger amount. If you miss support payments, you can face having your payments increased by up to 50% above the court-ordered amount until you catch up on the missed payments.
  • You can lose your tax refund. The Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) will intercept your refund check if you have past-due child support. If you owe at least $50, your state tax refund can be offset, and if you owe $500 (or more), your federal tax refund can be offset.
  • You may not receive lottery winnings. If you owe at least $50 of back child support and win at least $600 in the lottery, OCSE will intercept the winnings.
  • Your driver’s license can be suspended. If you owe 4 (or more) months’ worth of child support and are not paying via payroll deductions, then your drivers’ license can be suspended until the delinquent money is paid, a payment agreement is entered, and your employment information is provided for payroll deductions (for child support). In some cases, the DMV will award noncustodial parents a restricted drivers’ license that allows for travel to and from work.
  • Your credit score and/or profile can be affected. If you owe at least $1,000 in support or are two months behind on payments (whichever occurs first), OCSE will submit your name to Consumer Reporting Agencies; being delinquent on an account can negatively affect your credit report, which impacts your ability to receive loans, credit cards, etc.
  • Your assets can be seized. If the amount of support owed is over $500, the equivalent of 4 (or more) months of the current obligation amount, or payments from payroll deductions have not been received in the last 45 days, your information will be shared with the NY State Department of Taxation and Finance to discover and seize assets that satisfy the past-due support.
  • Your passport application can be denied. If you owe at least $2,500 of support, the State Department has the authority to deny a request for a new or renewed passport. After being notified of the application rejection, you will have to speak with OCSE to resolve the issue.
  • Your business and professional license applications can be denied. If you owe the equivalent of 4 (or more) months of support, OCSE can place restrictions on licenses renewals or issuances.

As a judicial enforcement action, the custodial parent or OCSE can file a petition asking the court to intervene if the administrative enforcement actions were unsuccessful. Potential outcomes of a violation petition (for the noncustodial parent) are a(n):

  • Money judgment. The court can determine the amount of support you owe and require you to pay back the specified amount with an interest rate of up to 9% (until the deficit is paid off).
  • Lien. You may be required to pay any owed child support before you can sell or transfer property because a lien is placed on your property.
  • Cash deposit. You may be required to deposit up to 3 years’ worth of support payments that can be used in the future if you miss support payments.
  • STEP referral. OCSE’s Support Through Employment Program (STEP) aims to help the support payee find employment and start paying child support regularly. Noncustodial parents who are under-employed or unemployed can be referred to the program.
  • Arrest. If the noncustodial parent does not appear in court for the hearing or is seriously behind in payments, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. Willfully failing to pay child support can also result in a parent going to jail for up to six months.

Other consequences of judicial enforcement actions include the:

  • Suspension of state-issued licenses. If you owe 4 (or months) of current support, you may be subject to temporarily losing your business, professional, and/or occupational license through a court process. This can include (but is not limited to) licenses awarded by the Liquor Authority, the Department of Education, and the Department of Environment Conservation.
  • Federal prosecution. It is a federal offense to willfully fail to pay child support. In some cases, OCSE may refer your case to the U.S. Attorney’s or District Attorney’s Office if other enforcement actions have failed and you have a significant amount of back owed support.
  • Participation in a work program. OCSE’s STEP program can also help assist parents to receive job training and educational opportunities. After you begin to earn a steady income, OCSE can deduct support payments from your paycheck.

When Can I Modify Child Support in New York?

Either parent (the support recipient or payee) can file for an upward or downward modification of their current child support orders. However, there are only certain circumstances in which the court will consider awarding a modification.

  • There has been a substantial change in circumstances. The court may modify an order if there has been a significant change in the cost of raising a child, the child’s specific needs, or a parent’s income.
  • Three years have passed since the court orders were entered or previously modified. Either parent can file for modification if three years have elapsed; the court may also review each party’s income after 3 years to recalculate support.
  • Either party has experienced an involuntary change in their gross income. If either parent’s income has increased or decreased by 15% since the order was last modified or entered, the court may allow for a modification.

It is important to note that child support orders cannot be altered retroactively. If you lose your job or experience circumstances that affect your ability to make payments, you should immediately contact an attorney and start the modification process. Any modification awards are only effective starting on the filing date; if you wait to file for a downward modification and accumulate back owed support, you will still be accountable for paying any arrears regardless of your current income or ability.

Get Help from Our Experienced Child Support Attorneys

At Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C., our attorneys have over 20 years of combined years of experience. We are equipped to help clients file to:

  • Modify an existing support agreement
  • Enforce court-ordered child support
  • Receive visitation rights

For help with child support matters, reach out to us online or at (516) 406-8381 today. We provide clients with individualized, results-driven legal counsel.