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Court Reviews Child Support Based on CSSA Guidelines

In this case, Ronald A. Usenza and Maura G. Gannon were both respondents and petitioners, while Maura G. Gannon was named only as a respondent.

The father objected to the Findings of Fact and order which occurred after a reversal and remand was issued by the Appellate Division. Now, the Support Magistrate must once again take up the issue and make a ruling on the child support issues based only on information presented in the original petitions from the year 2000, as everything submitted after that point is invalid and must not be taken into account.

History

Soon after their daughters were born in 1998, the two parents separated. In 2000, petitions for child support were filed. By 2001, these were resolved with stipulations arranged by the lawyers. In 2005, a modification to the agreement was made. In July, a Support Magistrate amended an order based on a technical error, but not objection was made to this correction. Another modification petition was filed in 2006, when the objection was raised that the required CSSA information had not been disclosed. A New York Custody Lawyer said this was dismissed and upheld, but the father then appealed the decision. This resulted in the reversal of the decision because disclosure requirements had not been met.

It is required that all agreements of this type include the parties being informed of the CSSA, and how much compensation would be awarded under it. Because the parties were not properly informed of this, it renders all the decisions made after this failure unenforceable.

Discussion

The matter came back to the Court based on an objection that the May 2001 order was also invalid because of CSSA disclosure problems. He was permitted to challenge the validity of that older order. No disclosures were ever recorded as part of the submitted stipulation in 2001. The 2001 proceeding was found in many ways to be even less compliant than the later ruling as far as CSSA disclosures apply. For instance, a Queens Family Lawyer said that when it is stated the CSSA is being deviated from, no reason is given for why that deviation is approved by the court.

The parents should be advised, by the terms of the act, what the correct amount of child support is. This is determined by combining the parental income and assessing a percentage of it based on how many children are being supported. Typically this only reaches up to the first $80,000 of income earned by the parents, but the support magistrate can assess income above that threshold based on special factors. The costs of child care, education and health care are then figured into the calculation. Finally, parents have the right to be told what that basic amount is, and if and why the amount being paid is different from it. Parents can choose to deviate from the formula by agreement as long as they give a reason, but if the courts deviate from it, they must carefully articulate the process used to arrive at the new figure.

It is important to note that objections based on these catechism failures can be raised on appeal or with a new appeal. Basically, if an order is defective it can be attacked at any point in time during the proceedings.

Results

A Nassau County Family Lawyer said that as of this ruling, there is no order in place which is currently valid. The Support Magistrate must schedule a new hearing and return to the original petitions which were entered in the year 2000. Everything that was entered after the year 2000 was dismissed because of the failure to comply with all of the disclosure requirements that apply to the CSSA.

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