Custodial Parent Information

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.

The following videos are available on YouTube:


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 Program?

Every state in the United States has a child support program, and many foreign countries have one also. The Child Support 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 legal parentage 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 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, caretaker of a child, or child who needs support can apply for child support services.

Please note that anyone who applies for temporary or safety net assistance automatically receives child support services.

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What services does the Child Support Program provide?

The Child Support Program offers the following services:

  • Locating Non-Custodial Parents
    The Child Support Program can use federal, state, and local resources and information to help locate the noncustodial parent.
  • Establishment of Parentage
    Establishing parentage is the process of determining the legal parents of a child. Being the legal parent means that the parent has parental rights and responsibilities to the child, such as the right to seek custody or visitation and the responsibility for the child's care and support, including financial and medical support. See the Establishment of Parentage page for detailed information about becoming a legal parent.
  • Support Establishment
    The Child Support Program 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, the Child Support Program 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 the Child Support Program 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.), the Child Support Program 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?

The annual service fee is now $35 and will be applied after more than $550 of support is collected and paid to the family.

Custodial parents may be charged a service fee once a year. The fee applies only when all these conditions are met.

  1. The custodial parent has never received assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF).
  2. Child support is being paid to the family.
  3. More than $550 of support is collected and paid to the family during the federal fiscal year (October 1–September 30).

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 $163,000, 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 is needed to open a case?

When custodial parents call or visit their county child support 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 their child support agency 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/parentage or order of filiation or judgment of parentage 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, the parent must notify their county child support office of any change in home and/or mailing address, telephone number, or personal information, such as name or Social Security number. Otherwise, support payments and other important notices may be delayed or lost.

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How do I contact my county child support office?

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.