When it comes to divorce for parents with minor children, few things are more contentious than the amount of support that the New York courts order one parent to pay the other on behalf of the kids.

Child support often falls woefully short of covering the expenses that children incur every month. Between clothing for bodies that are constantly growing, food, shelter and medical insurance, each child could represent hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of expenses every month. The parent receiving support is likely to feel like the amount that they receive is not nearly enough for what they have to spend.

Of course, having a large amount taken out of a paycheck also feels unfair to the parent paying child support. It is a difficult decision that the courts have to make based on both state law and your family circumstances. What are the primary factors that dictate the amount of child support paid during and after a divorce?

The New York courts focus on two primary factors

Unlike in other states, where child support reflects a number of factors, in New York, the number of children and income of the parent paying are the primary considerations. Those who make up to $148,000 will pay a percentage of their wages based on the number of children they have.

One child could mean paying 17% of your wages in support, while two could result in paying 25%. Three children will mean paying 29% of your income, four kids mean 31% and five or more will mean at least 35% of your wages go to child support.

For parents who make more than $148,000 a year, the judge presiding over their divorce case can decide whether they want to apply the percentage rule or deviate from it because of the higher level of household income.

Support levels are not set in stone despite being a court order

The judge in your case will issue a child support order that compels the non-custodial parent to pay a certain amount of support. This process is often automatic, with employers withholding money directly from someone’s check to ensure that child support always gets paid.

Given that child support is the result of a court order and a legal obligation on the part of the parent paying, many people assume that once they have a support order, it will remain the same until the children age out of support. However, New York does allow both the parent paying support and the parent receiving child support to request a modification hearing when circumstances drastically change.

Fighting for reasonable support levels in your divorce is as important as following up with modification requests when the needs of your children or your income changes.