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Court Rules on Shared Custody Arrangement

In this case, Michael Bast is the appellant, while Shelley R. Rossoff is the respondent.

History

A New York Family Lawyer explained that this appeal required consideration of child support payments in a situation where both parents retain custody of the child. The Child Support Standards act needs to be applied, and it is best that the assessment be made as it would in any other case. Because the other levels of the court system did not follow the formula laid out in the CSSA however, a modification is required to remit to recalculate child support requirements.

The former couple were married in September of 1986. Both practice law in New York City, and they had a daughter in March of 1989. Initially, the couple separated in 1990. Custody issues were settled in February of ’92 with an agreement where the daughter would spend Wednesday night with her father one week, but every second week would stay with him from Wednesday evening until Sunday evening.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said in 1993, the issue of child support was looked at by the Supreme Court. The plaintiff’s earnings were $76,876 annually, while the defendant earned $83,118. Although the CSSA does not specify anywhere how it applied in shared parenting, the court ruled that it was in fact applicable. Because the CSSA was applied, the court rejected the idea that a formula be applied to reduce child support payments based on the time the child was spending with the father, because there is no provision for this in the CSSA.

However, the court decided that the CSSA is not suited or shared custody and so a separate examination of the circumstances must be made in order to determine fairly how much support is due. Based on Domestic Relations Law, the child support payments of the plaintiff were set at a monthly $750.

This court agrees that the CSSA can be applied to shared custody cases. However, how it should be applied is more difficult to resolve. Normally, a three step formula that assesses the income of both parents is used to determine the amount of the support payments. A Nassau County Family Lawyer explained other factors, such as the standard of living the child would have had if a separation had not occurred are also factored in to the decision. To go outside the formula, the court needs to outline any support amounts and must show how those amounts were arrived at.

The plaintiff makes the argument that the formula was not applied properly before determining special factors in the situation, and the court agrees. Although the court may reject arrived upon therein, the formula must still be used before other factors can be considered. The CSSA was originally put in place to ensure predictability and fairness when determining child support, and by neglecting its core formula the court risks a return to the system it was put in place to avoid in the first place.

Even when custody is shared, the court can determine who is the primary custodian based on how much time the child spends with each parent. A Queens Family Lawyer said even in these arrangements, custody can and should be determined so that the CSSA can be properly applied.

Proportional Offsetting

The plaintiff argues for a proportional offset formula, where the amount paid in child support would be based on an examination of both parent’s incomes and how much time the child spends with each parent. Problems exist with this option however. In this state, the legislative history has rejected this model. Such a formula also discounts the fact that shared custody creates more expenses for raising a child than sole custody does. This increased cost could easily be non-accounted for in a proportional offset accounting, which could result in the child’s financial needs not being properly met. It also encourages parents to spend time with children out of financial concern instead of an interest in spending time with the child for its own sake.

Results

Because of the flaws in this formula, its application in this case was rejected. The trial court must reexamine the issue and apply the typical CSSA formula in order to determine child support payments, and then adjust those figures with good cause if they are found to be unjust or inappropriate.

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