Divorce is stressful, emotional, and often contentious. When you have children, it can make the process even more difficult. Although it can be challenging to come to an agreement with your ex, it’s important to remember that children have a legal right to receive support from both parents, even if they were never married.
Establishing child support during a divorce or separation can be crucial in establishing a stable home for the children. If you are worried that your children aren’t being properly provided for, the Peoria family law attorneys at Schierer & Ritchie can help. We work diligently with your children’s best interests at heart to ensure that child support is awarded fairly.
How Illinois Child Support is Calculated
Prior to July 1, 2017, the State of Illinois calculated child support as a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income, depending on the number of children being supported. Under these guidelines, the minimum child support payments were as follows:
- One child: 20% of net income
- Two children: 28% of net income
- Three children: 32% of net income
- Four children: 40% of net income
- Five children: 45% of net income
- Six or more children: 50% of net income
However, the way child support is calculated changed when Illinois reformed the law in 2017. The new law considers both parents’ income, not just the non-custodial parent’s.
This “income shares” model calculates child support based on the amount of money the couple would spend on the child if they were still together. Each parent is then responsible for their share based on their relative incomes.
To illustrate with an example, imagine both parents’ combined net income is $100,000, and they spend a total of $10,000 on their child. If one parent’s income is $60,000 and the other parent’s is $40,000, the parent who makes $60,000 will be responsible for $6,000 of the child support, and the parent who makes $40,000 will be responsible for $4,000.
What’s Included in a Child Support Order
Child support is intended to provide for the child’s basic needs. This includes housing, food, clothing, transportation and medical care. At the judge’s discretion, it may also include extracurricular activities, private school tuition, and medical expenses that are not covered by insurance.
However, the custodial parent is not required to keep records of how child support money is spent.
Child Support Outside the Guidelines
Sometimes, the child may have special needs or the parents might have extenuating circumstances that render the standard child support guidelines inappropriate. If the guidelines do not properly address the child’s needs and best interests, the court may adjust the order accordingly. Factors the court may consider are:
- What the child’s standard of living would have been if the parents stayed together
- Any special circumstances regarding the child’s physical or emotional condition
- Any special education requirements the child may have
- Any special financial needs the parents or child may have
The court is especially likely to deviate from the guidelines when parents have a nontraditional child custody arrangement, such as joint or shared custody. In traditional custody arrangements, where children visit the non-custodial parent on alternating weekends and for several weeks during summer vacation, the court is less likely to deviate from the child support guidelines.
Child Support in Shared Parenting Situations
In a “shared parenting situation,” each parent cares for the children overnight at least 146 nights each year. In this type of arrangement, the parent who is obligated to pay child support will have a smaller support obligation as they spend more time with their child.
Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment
Sometimes, parents become voluntarily unemployed or underemployed to reduce their income—just so they won’t have to pay child support. If this happens, the court may impute income upon the unemployed or underemployed parent, based on their earning potential. The other parent may be required to provide proof of this earning potential.
Modifying Past Child Support Orders
When parents’ circumstances change, such as a job loss or a promotion with an increase in income, or when children’s needs change, such as a new healthcare need, either parent may petition the court to modify the child support orders. The parent seeking the modification of orders must be prepared to show evidence of the change in circumstances.
Any modification of orders will apply to future child support obligations only. Past due child support payments cannot be modified.
Enforcing Child Support Orders
It’s important to understand that child support orders are legally separate from any conflicts that may arise between the two parents. A common misconception is that child support payments can be withheld if the custodial parent interferes with the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights or vice versa.
This is not the case. If a parent is violating the child support order, that violation is enforceable through the Illinois Department of Child Support Services or through a contempt proceeding in family court.
When Child Support Orders End
Child support orders generally end when the child turns 18 (or 19, if the child is still in high school). In addition, child support may end if the child joins the military, gets married, moves out on their own, or gets a job and no longer requires support.
Child Support for College Expenses
Although child support orders typically terminate when the child turns 18 or graduates high school, the court will occasionally award child support for college expenses. The parent requesting the support must demonstrate to the court that child support for college expenses is appropriate. If it is awarded, it will be calculated based on both parents’ relative incomes.
Learn More About Illinois Child Support
Determining how your child will be provided for is stressful, but an experienced Peoria child support lawyer can help. At Schierer & Ritchie, we have years of experience handling divorce cases involving children and child support. Committed to getting you the best outcome in this delicate process, we hold your child’s needs above all else.
If you have questions regarding support for your children, we are happy to meet with you by phone or in our offices in Peoria, Illinois. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.