Child support is awarded in New York based on the incomes of both parents, and the amount that noncustodial parents pay may be changed from time to time to reflect changing circumstances or increases in the cost of living. Parents attend modification hearings when changes are requested based on their situations, but they do not usually have to go to court when a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, is made.
The COLA process
The New York State Division of Child Support Enforcement reviews child support orders every two years to see if a COLA is warranted. This involves determining the increase in the cost of living since the child support order was made or last reviewed. The DCSE uses the Consumer Price Index for Urban Areas published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to make this calculation. If the cost of living has increased by 10% or more since the child support order was issued or last modified, both of the parents are notified that the case is eligible for a COLA.
Objecting to COLAs
Parents can either accept the COLA or object to it. If they object, a modification hearing is scheduled. The matters involved are fairly straightforward, but parents may choose to object to a COLA and take their chances in a family law court if they have experienced a significant change in income. New York bases child support on the incomes of both parents, so a noncustodial parent who earns far less money than they did when the order was issued could end up paying less in child support each month even after a COLA is applied.
Legal help with child support issues
COLAs are made to ensure that children do not experience hardship due to increases in the costs of providing them with food, shelter, and other necessities, but the process is not automatic, and parents can object. However, requesting a child support modification hearing can be risky, which is why parents may wish to consider the pros and cons before objecting to a COLA.