How to File for Child Support in New York
If you’re a custodial parent in New York, you may be seeking child support from your child’s noncustodial parent.
There are generally six steps to filing for child support in New York. The length of the process varies and is highly dependent on how cooperative any noncustodial parents are.
In cases where the parties are highly cooperative, you may be able to skip much of the child support process and enter into an agreement about payments.
What are the steps to file for child support in New York?
The steps to file for child support in New York are generally fairly straightforward:
Step 1: Choose a path
Depending on where you live in New York, there are likely several options for filing child support available to you.
For example, New York City has four paths outlined in its guidance materials. The recommended path is to download a special app on your phone that will eventually allow you to get in contact with a support representative. This person can guide you through the rest of the process.
At some point, you will need to fill out an application for child support and mail, email, or otherwise send it to the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS), an organization discussed in more detail in the next step.
Step 2: Contact OCSS
Regardless of the path chosen, you will eventually need to contact the OCSS, a federal agency that oversees child support-related cases. Initially, they’re going to need as much information as possible about any noncustodial parents of the child you’re caring for. They will also need information about your relationship and your child’s relationship with this person (or people).
Step 3: Help locate noncustodial parents
OCSS will need to know where your child’s noncustodial parent lives or works. In many cases, this is fairly simple. But you may not know where they live, especially if they’re actively taking steps to avoid paying child support.
Information that can help locate a child’s noncustodial parent includes the following:
- Their last known address
- Their date and place of birth
- The names of their parents, including their mother’s maiden name
- A recent photograph of the individual
- The name and address of their employer
- Their phone number
- Their Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number (TIN)
OCSS has access to resources you don’t. If you’re struggling to track down your child’s other parent, they can use the information above to search computer databases and find the noncustodial parent’s current address and employer.
Step 4: Make sure parentage is established
Parentage needs to be established, proving a given noncustodial parent is the actual biological parent of a child. This is generally only an issue when the child is born to unmarried parents. One of the easiest ways to establish parentage, if the parents agree, is by signing an Acknowledgment of Parentage (AOP) form.
Another option is low-cost DNA testing. In some cases, the support magistrate can order a DNA test if parentage is unclear and noncustodial parents are resistant to openly admitting they are a child’s biological parent.
Step 5: Serve a summons
Once you’ve filed a petition for parentage or child support, any noncustodial parents need to be notified by a court summons. This summons will detail the date and time of a child support hearing that they must attend.
There are several ways to get a summons served. Perhaps the easiest is through OCSS, as you can request a free summons service. They usually serve the summons by mail. Whether you use their service or not, you cannot serve a summons yourself.
Step 6: Go to court
Once a summons has been served and a court date set, you will need to attend your court hearing. You and any noncustodial parents will be able to give testimony, and the income and expense information of all relevant parties will be reviewed. You don’t need a lawyer for family court, but you are permitted to hire one if you wish.
It’s possible that there will be multiple hearings, although there will be fewer hearings if all parties are well-prepared. Bring accurate, up-to-date financial documents with you to simplify the process.
If a child’s noncustodial parent resists the process and doesn’t show up for the hearing, it’s possible to proceed without them if there is proof they were issued a summons.
The friendliest approach
The child support filing process is much easier if a child’s noncustodial parent is cooperative and willing to enter into an agreement with the custodial parent. In this case, the parents have the option to voluntarily enter an agreement before appearing in court. The agreement should be based on the child support guidelines used by the court and discussed by the parents with an OCSS customer service representative.
This may be thought of as the friendliest approach. It grants the parties involved time to talk about and influence the specifics of the agreement. It’s also likely to be much faster than the traditional process of filing for child support and waiting for a judge to rule on it, as it typically only requires one court appearance.
Mediation can help
A mediator can help you and your ex work out the specifics of your child support arrangements. This process can save time and money versus battling over the specifics in court.
ReferencesChild Support Handbook for Custodial Parents. (March 2023). City of New York.
Child Support Services. City of New York.