TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the social services law, in relation
to income amounts to be utilized in issuing orders of child support in
supreme and family court
This is one in a series of measures being introduced at the request of
the Chief Administrative Judge upon the recommendation of her Family
Court Advisory and Rules Committee and the Matrimonial Practice
This measure would revise the method of calculation for the State's
Child Support Standards Act.
In 2009, the Legislature enacted the Child Support Modernization Act
(L. 2009, c. 343), which, for the first time in two decades, raised
the combined parental income benchmark used to calculate child support
under the Child Support Standards Act (Family Court Act § 413).
Colloquially known as the child support "cap," the figure was raised
from $80,000 to $130,000, with a built-in mechanism for indexing and
adjusting the figure every two years depending upon changes in the
Consumer Price Index. For combined parental incomes up to the
benchmark amount, the Child Support Standards Act percentages are
presumptively applied, that is, 17% of combined parental income for
families with one child, 25% of combined income for families with two
children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children and not less
than 35% of income for five or more children. For amounts in excess of
the benchmark, which has been adjusted as of January 31, 2014 to
$141,000, the Supreme or Family Court considers the ten factors
enumerated in section 413(1)(f) of the Family Court Act and section
240(1b)(f) of the Domestic Relations Law and determine whether
application of the CSSA percentages to income in excess of that
threshold would be "unjust or inappropriate." The court may adjust its
determination based upon the ten factors or continue to apply the CSSA
percentages or may apply a combination of both approaches. See Family
Court Act § 413 (1)(c) (3); D.R.L. § 240(1-b) (c) (3).
An anomaly in the language describing the means by which the combined
parental income benchmark is calculated could lead to unforeseen
results that may be disproportionate to the actual rate of inflation.
Section 111-I of the Social Services Law provides that the combined
parental income amount in the CSSA must be adjusted every two years by
"the product of the average annual percentage changes in the consumer
price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) as published by the United
States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics for the prior
two-year period rounded to the nearest one thousand dollars." It would
be more appropriate in the CSSA to utilize the "sum," rather than the
"product" of the average annual percentage changes in the CPI-U.
Use of the term "product" was most likely intended to refer to the
product of the combined parental income "cap" multiplied by the
combined total of the changes in the CPI-U during the preceding
two-year period, that is the total level of inflation during the
applicable period. However, read literally, the current language might
be read to require the change in the first year to be multiplied by
the change in the second year. Changes in the CPI-U have been modest
for the past few years - in the 1.5 - 2.1% range - thus not causing a
major disparity in the amount of the "cap." But if the CPI-U increases
at a rate of 3.5% or higher in future years, significant disparities
would emerge. An example for each formula will suffice.
CSSA Cap: Assuming that the annual rate of change in the CPI-U over a
two-year period is 3.5%, then using the product of the changes (as
under the current statute), 3.5% times 3.5%, yields 12.25%. 12.25% of
$141,000, the 2014 "CSSA cap," is $17,272, which, rounded to the
nearest $1,000, is $17,000. The "cap" would thus be $158,000 ($141,000
plus $17,000). In contrast, using the sum of the changes, as proposed
in this measure, 3.5% plus 3.5%, yields a 7% change; 7% of $141,000 is
$9,870, or $10,000 when rounded to the nearest $1,000. The new "cap"
would thus be $151,000 - a significant $7,000 difference between the
two methods of calculation.
This measure proposes use of the sum of the average annual percentage
changes in the CPI-U for each of the two years multiplied by the
existing combined parental income "cap" and then rounded to the
nearest $1,000. This methodology will yield results reflecting the
total amount of inflation for each two-year period and will thus be
proportional to the inflation rate. Although the correct calculation
has been made for the CPI-U so far, this clarification to the statute
would help minimize any confusion or potential for miscalculation in
This measure, which would have no fiscal impact upon the State, would
take effect 90 days after it shall have become a law.
2014 Legislative History:
OCA 2014-83R Senate 6784-A (Sen. Avella) (amended and recommitted to
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