Child Support Questions: Naperville Divorce Attorneys
The Child Support Overhaul
There were major changes made to the Illinois child support guidelines in 2017. In reviewing various on-line websites, many have not been updated to reflect the current law. Let’s have a brief overview:
What is the purpose of child support?
Child support establishes payments to be made by both parents for the support of their children if the parents are separated, divorced or not living together. The intent is to provide a benchmark of financial support that considers the needs of the children based on the time each parent spends with the children, each parent’s income and financial resources, the cost of shelter, clothing, and food for the children. The child support guideline amounts were developed based on national and statewide research regarding the cost of raising children, a review of social trends and child support practices nationwide along with public input.
How are the new Illinois child support guidelines different from the previous Illinois child support guidelines?
The new guidelines are substantially different- we consider them to be a complete overhaul of the old law. In a nutshell: the new guidelines recognize that each parent is responsible for his or her share of prorated expenses of raising their children. Under the old guidelines, a specific percentage was applied to one parent’s income (the non-custodial parent) and that parent paid child support the other parent (the custodial parent). The custodial parent’s income was basically ignored- even if they earned more money than the non-custodial parent. The new guidelines are referred to as “the income shares model” and consider the income of both parents and the amount of overnights the children spend with each parent. The new guidelines provide for more flexibility and the possibility of a shared parenting calculation in cases where that calculation is appropriate.
How is child support calculated in Illinois?
Child Support is calculated by considering the net income of both parents. We calculate each parent’s income and then determine the percent of the total income contributed by each parent. We then consult a chart that converts gross income to net income, take that net income figure and then consult a chart that converts net income for x number of children and converts it to a child support number. We then apply the percentage of each parent’s share of the total income to the child support amount to determine each parent’s share of the support payment. If the parents have shared parenting (a parent has more than 146 overnights), a different support calculation is used which takes into account the number of overnights each parent has.
Why was the law changed?
The previous child support guidelines were outdated in many ways: the guidelines had been in effect since 1984. Societal norms have changed, specifically, the number of dual income earning families and the reasonableness of considering both parent’s income instead of only one parent’s income. The actual costs associated with child rearing needed to be updatedAre any other expenses included in the child support payment?
Yes, there are other calculations that can be included, such as for certain medical insurance expenses and extracurricular or activity expenses.
Does the court have the right to tell me how much we should be paying for our children?
Yes, actually, the court does have the right to do so. Child support guidelines have been in effect in this country for many years, and when they were initially introduced, the guidelines were challenged in the courts often on a constitutional basis. Why can the court dictate the amount of money I have to pay if I am divorced or separated, while the court cannot do that in an “intact family”? Those argument were made and lost: the court has the right because the court’s interest is in protecting the best interest of children and to provide consistency and predictability in cases before the court. Arguments can be made to the court requesting a deviation from the child support guidelines, but those are granted in very specific situations. I
If I want to pay all of the expenses for my children (instead of my spouse contributing) can I do that?
Depends a lot on the facts and why. If the motive is that you do not want to provide monies to the other parent- then you will probably lose that argument.
What if I cannot afford to pay the mandated amount?
It really depends on why you cannot afford to make the payments. Remember child support is based on actual net income. If the reason you cannot afford to pay support is because you have a big mortgage on your new home or a second family, you will probably not win on an argument to decrease your child support. If you have a serious medical issue, or the other party makes so much money that your contribution to child support could leave you at a poverty level, you could have a valid argument.
What if child support that is ordered is not paid?
There are various tools available to the court and to parents to collect unpaid child support. These tools are specific to the facts of your case and you should consult with a divorce attorney to understand your options if you are behind on making your child support payments or if you are the parent that has not received the court ordered payments.
What other resources are available to me in calculating my support payments?