Individuals with children from multiple partners face the prospect of paying multiple child support orders at the same time. This can be a huge financial burden depending on how each support amount iscalculated. Prior to 2013, paying parents had legitimate cause to worry, since it was not uncommon for judges to calculate support amounts as if each child was the only one receiving support. Under this rationale, many parents were left destitute after having most of their wages garnished each and every month. On the other hand, some judges determined support amounts solely based on the available income, which is the income minus the amount of any previous child support orders. Thus, if a parent was already paying on two child support orders, the third child could end up with severely inadequate support, compared to that of his half-siblings.
Fortunately, the Appellate Division addressed this issue in the case of Harte v. Hand, which resulted in a method that accounts for the effects that one child support order has on another. The guidelines require two separate calculations for each family: 1) the amount of support a child would receive if the parent had no prior support orders; 2) the amount of support a child would receive based on the amount of the prior child support order. The resulting numbers are averaged in order to determine the fairest amount possible, which are adjustable based on other factors in the parent or child's life. While the system isn't flawless, it is certainly more equitable to all the involved parties. In essence, it seeks to create a balance between the issues of a parent's available income versus the injustice of penalizing a child who is "not first in line".
Both the paying and receiving parents are allowed to request increases or decreases in the amount of support if they have a legitimate reason. For example, if the paying parent incurs a disability that makes it impossible for him to work full-time, he may request a decrease in the amount of support. Or, if the receiving parent needs additional help paying for the child's college expenses, she may request an increase in support while the child is in college. Child support decisions can also be appealed, but the Appellate Division rarely overrules a family court judge's decision. If you're having trouble with multiple child support payments, it's best to find out about your options from an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can also help you file the petition and gather the needed documents to support your claim. While you are not required to have an attorney, the paperwork and court requirements are overwhelming for the average parent with numerous work and family obligations.
Regardless of your situation, you must resolve any child support-related issue as soon as possible, since defaulting on your payments can have serious legal consequences. For more information on your child support rights and legal options, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.