When parents split parenting time in a roughly equal manner, the higher-earning parent sometimes asserts that child support should not be paid at all. He or she may argue that each parent should pay for the children when the children are in his or her care. Unsurprisingly, the lower-earning parent does not view things quite the same way.
As we see more and more cases of 50/50 parenting time, Illinois courts continue to be faced with the question of whether child support should be effectively “cancelled out” or, at least, deviate from the relatively crude percentage-based method for calculating child support, as set forth in the statute.
The Third District Appellate Court, in In re Marraige of Vance, 2016 IL App (3d) 150717, was recently faced with this issue. The Appellate Court held that, where parenting time is shared, the trial court is not obligated to determine child support according to statutory guideline fixed percentages. Rather, “the court may apportion the percentage between the parents …, or may disregard the statutory guidelines in the Act and instead consider the [other] factors listed in section 505(a)(2) [of the Act].”
In consideration of the relatively equal parenting time, the trial court in Vance applied what is sometimes called the “off-set method”: mother pays father the statutory percentage of her net income and father pays mother the statutory percentage of his net income. In Vance, there were two minor children and the statutory percentage was 28%. The effect of this method is the same as applying the statutory percentage to the difference between the parents’ net incomes. The Appellate Court determined that the lower court was within its sound discretion when applying the offset method and such ruling would not be disturbed on appeal.
The holding in Vance is important because it solidifies the trial court’s authority to use a support calculation different from the one expressly set forth in the statute. In any child support consideration where shared parenting time exists, your family law expert should be familiar with this holding and similar case law that establishes a basis for deviating from the statutory formula.