Custodial Parent Information

Woman and child in ocean

Custodial parents are often the first to need information about child support services.

The following links provide the information most often requested by custodial parents.

Custodial parents may also want to watch our child support videos. Click on the video title to play the video automatically in Windows Media player. If you need to install the Windows Media player, you can download it from the Microsoft Downloads site.

Start video; new windowWhat You Need to Know about Child Support Hearings and ServicesWMV, 20 minutes

Explains what you should bring with you to a child support hearing, what to expect during the hearing, and what to do after you receive a child support order
Court video transcript

Start video; new windowHospital Based Acknowledgment of PaternityWMV, 16 minutes

Explains when paternity needs to be acknowledged, what signing a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form means to the mother, the father, and the child, and who should (or should not) sign this form
Paternity video transcript


What is child support?
Child support is financial support provided by the noncustodial parent. Child support includes
  • Cash payments (based on the parent's income and the needs of the child)
  • Health insurance for the child (medical support)
  • Payments for child care, and
  • Payments for reasonable health care costs that are not covered by health insurance.
Family Court officials (Support Magistrates) determine the amount of child support the noncustodial parent will pay (see how much, below). Under New York State law, parents are responsible for supporting their child until the child is 21 years old.

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What is the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program?
Every state in the United States has a child support enforcement (CSE) program, and many foreign countries have one also. The CSE program began in 1975, when Congress passed Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. Title IV-D required every state to
  • Establish and maintain statewide child support enforcement laws
  • Provide procedures to establish paternity and to obtain court orders for child support
  • Collect and distribute child support payments, and
  • Enforce child support orders when payments are not made.
In New York State, child support enforcement services are provided by Child Support Enforcement Units (CSEU) and Support Collection Units (SCU) in every county and in New York City.

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Who can apply for child support services?
Any parent, guardian, or caretaker of a child who needs support can apply for child support services.

Also, anyone who applies for temporary or safety net assistance automatically receives child support services. Note: If seeking child support may result in physical or emotional harm to the custodial parent or the child, the custodial parent will be referred to a domestic violence liaison and may not be required to cooperate with the child support agency.

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What services does CSE provide?
CSE offers the following services:

  • Locating Non-Custodial Parents
    CSE can use federal, state, and local resources and information to help locate the noncustodial parent.
  • Paternity Establishment
    When a child is born to unmarried parents, the child has no legal father. Paternity must be established before child support or medical support can be obtained. CSE can help parents establish paternity either by completing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form or by filing a paternity petition in Family Court. CSE can also arrange for genetic testing if either parent has any doubts about the identity of the child's biological father.
  • Support Establishment
    CSE can help a custodial parent file a petition in Family Court for an order of support.
  • Support Collection
    A child support order directs the noncustodial parent to pay child support to the Support Collection Unit (SCU). The SCU collects, tracks, and disburses payments to the custodial parent. However, if the custodial parent is receiving temporary or safety net assistance, all but the first $200 of current child support payments is sent to the Department of Social Services as reimbursement for the assistance.
  • Support Enforcement—Administrative
    Federal and New York State laws require the local CSE unit to enforce a child support order when the noncustodial parent does not pay. Administrative procedures are actions the CSE unit can take without going to court.

    The SCU will enforce a child support order automatically through payroll deductions. The SCU can also collect unpaid support by taking State and federal income tax refunds and lottery winnings; seizing assets—including bank accounts; suspending driver's licenses; suspending or denying passports; and notifying credit reporting agencies of overdue child support payments (arrears). The SCU can also refer the case for collection to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.
  • Support Enforcement—Court
    When administrative enforcement is not successful, the SCU will assist in filing an enforcement petition with the family court. The court can order money judgments for the arrears; order the noncustodial parent into a work program; order that a hearing take place to suspend state-issued business, professional, or occupational licenses; or issue probation or jail sentences.
  • Medical Support Establishment and Enforcement
    Child support services also include obtaining and enforcing court-ordered health insurance for children. If an existing order does not include health insurance coverage, CSE will help file a petition with family court to get health insurance included in the support order.
  • Review and Adjustment of Child Support Amounts
    The amount that is owed for child support may be changed over time based on a cost of living adjustment.

    Every two years CSE automatically reviews each child support order to determine whether the amount to be paid should be increased due to cost of living increases. Cost of living adjustments can be made without going to court.

    For non-temporary assistance or non-safety net assistance cases, a notice is sent to both parents when a case is eligible for a cost of living adjustment, and either parent may request the adjustment. When the custodial parent or child is receiving temporary or safety net assistance, the cost of living adjustment is automatically made when the case becomes eligible—without either parent requesting the adjustment.
  • Modification of Child Support Orders
    If either the custodial or noncustodial parent's circumstances change significantly (such as loss of job, change in custody of a child, etc.), CSE can help the parent file a petition in family court to request a modification (change) to the existing child support order.

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Is there any charge for child support services?
Custodial parents may be charged a $25.00 service fee once a year. The fee applies only to parents who have never received TANF benefits and who have a case with more than $500 in support collected during the federal fiscal year (October 1–September 30 of the next year). The fee will continue to apply in each federal fiscal year. For more information, visit the service fee questions and answers page.

Legal services are available on request. Costs for legal services will be collected from clients who are not receiving public assistance benefits.

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How is the amount of support decided?
The court uses a standard guideline to calculate what the noncustodial parent will pay, based on the noncustodial parent's adjusted gross income and on the number of children involved. The court first determines the noncustodial parent's gross income, and then makes certain deductions (including Medicare, Social Security, and New York City or Yonkers tax) to establish the noncustodial parent's adjusted gross income. The court then multiplies the adjusted gross income by the standard guideline percentage for the number of children. These percentages are as follows:
  • 17% for one child
  • 25% for two children
  • 29% for three children
  • 31% for four children
  • at least 35% for five or more children.
Then the noncustodial parent's share of child care, medical, and educational expenses is added to the income percentage amount. The combined amount, percentage of income plus share of expenses, is the basic child support amount.

For the combined parental income amount over $148,000, the court may consider either the standard guideline percentages and/or other factors in setting the full child support obligation.

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What information does CSE need to open a case?
When custodial parents call or visit their county CSE agency, they should provide as much information about themselves, their child(ren), and the noncustodial parent as they can. The more information custodial parents can provide, the more quickly CSE can assist them.

Information about the noncustodial parent:
  • full name and date of birth
  • current or last known address and phone number
  • current or last known work address and phone number
  • Social Security number (look on old pay stubs, tax, military, or medical records)
  • income information (tax records, pay stubs, bank and business records)
  • health insurance information
Other helpful information:
  • acknowledgment of paternity or order of filiation for each child
  • marriage license
  • divorce decree or separation agreement
  • copies of child support orders
  • custodial parent's income information (tax records, pay stubs, bank records)
  • information about child-related expenses and the child's needs
Information about the child(ren):
  • birth certificate
  • Social Security number
  • health insurance coverage information
  • current or last known address (if different than custodial parent's)

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What if the custodial parent moves?
If a custodial parent moves while receiving child support services, s/he must notify CSE of any change in residential and/or mailing address, telephone number, or personal information, such as name or Social Security number. If the custodial parent does not notifiy CSE of these changes, support payments and other important notices may be delayed or lost.

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How do I contact my county child support office?
Follow this link to get the address and telephone number of your county child support office. Most offices are open Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.