When child support is established in a domestic relations case in Illinois, it is generally a set amount of support per month, or per pay period. In some scenarios, support may be a percentage, too, on top of the base amount. To better explain the different support order scenarios, let’s say, for example, John Smith earns $20,000 net, base income, a year. Let’s say John Smith is a salesman, and he earns substantial commissions throughout the year. In 2013, he earned $50,000 in commissions. In 2014, he earned $70,000 in commissions. In 2015, he earned $100,000 in commissions. It wouldn’t be fair for John Smith’s children to only receive child support off of his base net income, when there are very large commissions being earned by John Smith. However, it is impossible to set an amount certain of support when someone’s income varies so much from year to year. There are a few things the Courts will do to try and take this into consideration.
SCENARIO 1: The True-up
In this scenario, for one minor child, John would pay 20% of his net base income of $20,000, on a monthly basis, or per pay period. Then, when John receives a commission, he would pay 20% of his net commission income on some sort of regular basis. If he receives quarterly bonuses, he could do the true-up quarterly. Or, he could true-up the support each and every time he receives a commission. He would be required to also tender a copy of the paystub showing what he received, along with the payment, so the obligee could make sure they were receiving the correct amount. And, generally, the parties would exchange tax returns on an annual basis to ensure the true-ups were accurate and all support was received.
SCENARIO 2: The Average
In some scenarios such as those set forth above, John would pay 20% of his base net income for one minor child, but the commissions might be averaged over a period of time. So, the last three years, John earned commissions averaging $73,300. The court might set his support based upon his base pay of $20,000 plus $73,300, which is an average of his commissions for the last three years. In some of the years, he’d be paying more support than what he earns. In other years, he may pay less support than what he earns, since it is an average. Some Judges prefer this method because there is not a frequent true up, and it makes things less complicated if the parties ever come back to Court for enforcement issues.
The parties can agree to any method they see fit. These are two options a Court might impose if the parties are unable to agree, in a scenario where the obligor earns varying amounts each year.