Our Palatine attorneys provide guidance and legal representation to help Illinois parents who need to establish initial child support orders, modify existing orders, or pursue or defend against child support claims.
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When you and your child’s other parent live separately, child support is money paid to ensure your child experiences a standard of living that is comparable to the standard of living he or she would have enjoyed if you and your ex had stayed together. In Illinois, a person must be determined to be the child’s legal parent to be ordered to pay child support. Traditionally, the “noncustodial” parent would have been responsible for making child support payments to the “custodial” parent for support of the children. Updates to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, however, mean that the courts consider a variety of factors to determine how much child support parents owe and who will pay.
Under Illinois law, both parents are financially responsible for providing for their children’s needs until the children turn 18, or 19 if they are still attending high school. Prior to 2017, the courts typically looked at the income of the noncustodial parent and the number of children involved to determine the amount of child support to be paid. In 2017, however, Illinois changed the way child support is calculated. The state adopted the income shares model of child support to determine the amount of payments.
Under the income shares model, the courts consider the combined income of both parents, the number of children involved, and the cost of living to determine the amount of child support for which the parents are collectively responsible for paying. The courts then determine each parent’s share based on the parents’ relative incomes.
For example, let’s say parent A provides 70% of the income and parent B contributes 30%. If the parents have a combined net income of $5,500 and their obligation for two children is $1,521, parent A would be responsible for paying $1,064 per month and parent B would need to contribute $456 monthly.
The basic support obligation can fluctuate, however, depending on additional court-ordered costs like daycare, health insurance, school fees, spousal maintenance, and the amount of time each parent has with the children.
In shared parenting situations, when each parent spends more than 146 overnights with their children, a slightly different method of calculation is used. Once the initial combined financial obligation is determined, that number is multiplied by 1.5. Then each spouse’s portion is determined based on relative income and the amount of time each parent spends with the children. Using the calculation above, if parent B has the children 60% of the time, parent A would now be responsible for $1,064 X 1.5 X 0.6 = $958 monthly. Parent B would be responsible for $274. The two amounts are then compared, and the parent with the larger financial obligation will pay the difference. ($958 – $274 = $684.
Again, the courts may deviate from these guidelines to account for additional transportation costs, health care insurance premiums and medical expenses, daycare, spousal maintenance payments, and other expenses deemed necessary by the court.
Although some parents fall upon hard times and are unable to secure satisfactory employment, other parents quit their jobs or decide not to work to avoid paying child support or reduce their financial obligations to their children. When one spouse chooses to be unemployed or takes a job that is below his or her earning potential, the courts often use evidence supplied by both parents to determine income potential for child support calculation purposes. The courts consider the parent’s previous jobs and income, education level, job skills, and physical and mental abilities to evaluate earning potential. The imputed income is then used to replace the parent’s actual income when calculating child support obligations.
There is an exception to the rule, however. When the parent’s unemployment or underemployment is determined to be in the best interests of the children, the courts will not impute income. Instead, the parent’s actual income will be used to determine how much he or she will pay or receive.
Missed child support payments can result in significant hardship for the receiving parent and the children, and serious consequences for the paying parent. When a spouse chooses not to pay court-ordered child support payments, he or she can be found in contempt of court.
In Illinois, the courts take missed child support payments seriously. As such, there are numerous tools at the court’s disposal that are designed to enforce child support orders.
Sometimes unforeseen circumstances like job loss, injury, or illness can make it difficult for parents to meet their child support obligations. Other times, a child’s needs may change or parents may experience a significant increase in income. When substantial material changes in financial circumstances occur, parents can ask the courts to modify existing child support orders to increase or decrease payment amounts.