The 4 "C's" of Child Support: Calculating, Compliance, Contempt and Consultation
An overview on how court's calculate and enforce child support orders.
Both parents have a legal obligation to support their children. States have specific legal guidelines for child support obligations that a court can require both parents meet. These statutory guidelines, set forth in Section 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/505), apply to children of marriage/divorce, as well as to unwed parents. Child support calculations are one of the most varied and ever-changing elements of divorce law. In this article, we will look at 2021 child support law in Illinois, including changes to the Illinois child support laws and how child support payments are determined in Illinois.
Both parents have a legal obligation to support their children. States have specific legal guidelines for child support obligations that a court can require both parents meet. These statutory guidelines, set forth in Section 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/505), apply to children of marriage/divorce, as well as to unwed parents. Child support calculations are one of the most varied and ever-changing elements of divorce law. In this article, we will look at 2021 child support law in Illinois, including changes to the Illinois child support laws and how child support payments are determined in Illinois. We will also discuss calculating income for child support as well as modifying and changing child support in Illinois and answer the question “do you need to pay interest on child support?”
Some form of child support is required in every state. Both parents are obligated to provide the minimum amount of financial support for their child. This obligation continues so long as a court order exists requiring it, regardless of disputes over visitation, parenting time, or other responsibilities. If a parent fails to meet a court-ordered obligation for support, that parent may be subject to contempt proceedings.
To calculate income for child support, the first step is to determine the net income of each parent. The net income includes any and all gross income, less applicable taxes. Net income, for child support purposes, may also include maintenance paid to spouse. Income covers basic employment income as well as investment income, self-employment income, gifts, and commission earnings. Deductions are subtracted from this total. Deductions include federal and state income taxes, necessary medical expenses, insurance premiums for dependents, and other reasonable expenses already paid for the care of the child. Judges can also use some discretion when determining child support payment based on elements such as the parties’ financial resources, the financial resources of the child(ren), and the standard of living the child would have maintained had the parties not separated. Finally, both parents’ net incomes are combined to determine the monthly support amount, pursuant to Health and Family Services (“HFS”) guidelines.
In the past, Illinois used a simple percentage based model for determining child support. However, in July 2017, Illinois changed its model from being percentage based to an income shares model. This new model’s intention was to adjust support based on the income of each parent and to apportion support between the parents as each parent has an ongoing obligation to support their child(ren).
When determining child support, the parties’ combined net income and number of children are input into HFS reference charts to determine the minimum monthly statutory support amount. These charts change often, but the current versions can be found on the Illinois.gov website or you can reach out to a licensed family law attorney to help you through the process.
While the judge will begin with the basic model, many factors can increase or lower child support payments. Some of these factors include:
● The physical and emotional wellbeing of the child.
● The child’s education needs, including special education.
● The child’s standard of living, had the parents remained together.
● Costs of travel for visitation or other recurring expenses for the child.
● Extreme medical expenses of the parents.
When considering these and other individual factors, the court may decide to add expenses, often referred to as “child-care expenses,” such as daycare, health care or school tuition. They may also consider lowering payments for low income parents and increasing them for high income parents. Every judge’s goal is to assure that the well-being of the child is maximized. After all, child support obligations are to help the child, not for the betterment of the party receiving the support payments.
Beginning in 2021, Illinois no longer automatically charges interest in child support cases. Prior to 2021, Illinois was one of only 15 states who automatically charged interest on child support. Outstanding principal balances of child support will remain, but unadjusted interest will be removed from the balance.
However, this does not mean there can never be interest charged on child support. It simply means interest can be charged only after a court order. This was done to create further equity between lower income parents - who typically have court mandated child support - and higher income parents - who tend to have private child support arrangements.
Child support agreements or orders can be modified at any time by agreement of the parties or by court order following a properly noticed motion. The party seeking to modify child support, whether to increase or decrease, must establish that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred justifying a modification to the support order. Some examples of substantial changes in circumstances include, but are not limited to, a party obtaining new employment or losing current employment, the number of children subject to the order reducing as a result of one attaining the age of majority, or a significant change to the parenting time schedule.
Parties to a divorce case or parentage case can create any agreement they see fit as to child support, and child-care expenses, so long as the court deems it acceptable and appropriate. This means the support obligation can be higher than the statutory guidelines or lower. Support can also be reserved by agreement of the parties. However, as mentioned, if the court deems the parties’ proposed agreement is unconscionable or not in the child’s best interest, it does not have to accept or approve the proposal and can apply statutory guideline support.
For questions regarding child support issues, please feel free to call us at (708) 299-5827 or submit a message through our website to schedule a consultation.
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An overview on how court's calculate and enforce child support orders.
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