Using the SUNY (State University of New York) Cap to Determine Higher Education Contributions

Oftentimes, parents seeking to contribute to their child’s higher education are unaware of how child support may be impacted. In New York State, child support is based on a pro-rata (fewer deductions) share of parental income for the first $80,000 of combined income. Once you have the pro-rata share, the state applies a statutory percentage of income as follows:

  • 17 % of combined parental income for one child;
  • 25 % of combined parental income for two children;
  • 29 % of combined parental income for three children;
  • 31 % of combined parental income for four children; and
  • no less than 35 % of combined parental income for five or more children.

On combined income of greater than $80,000, a court has discretion to depart from the statutory percentages. Likewise, settlement agreements may also depart from the standards.

In reality, while both parents are responsible for their shares of support, the non-custodial parent will make payments of their share to the custodial parent. In addition, payment of a child’s higher education expenses is not automatic. In New York State, a noncustodial parent must pay child support until age 21 or longer if the child enrolls in higher education. In determining the cost of higher education, it is often challenging to make an accurate estimate, because of outside factors such as books or room and board expenses. For this reason, New York State courts apply the State University of New York (SUNY) cap, which is a friendly approach to how college will be financed.

This cap refers to each former spouse having a limited obligation to pay the tuition rate it would cost for a child to attend a SUNY school. However, it does not preclude a child from attending a private college or university. It simply caps the cost that each parent has to pay towards his or her child’s education.

The SUNY cap is calculated by estimating the future higher education costs of a child based upon the cost of a SUNY school. However, when applying the SUNY cap, it is important to remember to factor in future increases in tuition prices. While the SUNY cap is a tool that is utilized to settle higher education disputes between parents, it is not perfect, because oftentimes, SUNY schools may differ in pricing.

If you are seeking to determine higher education responsibilities, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney that may assist in the process. If you have questions regarding divorce, child support, college expenses, custody of a child, or visitation of a child, contact the Suffolk County family law attorneys of McGuire, Peláez & Bennett, PC. Ms. Peláez has practiced daily in the family court for more than 10 years as private and Court-appointed counsel, and she will zealously fight for your rights as a parent. Contact our Long Island family law firm at (631) 348-1702.

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