Illinois utilizes the percentage of income model to calculate child support obligations. Under this model, only the noncustodial parent’s income is considered when calculating support obligations in the vast majority of cases. A percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income is calculated to determine the minimum amount of support owed per child. For example, the noncustodial parent owes 20% of his or her net income to support one child, and 28% for two children.
When there are multiple children from multiple partners, the child support calculation guidelines provide that a paid child support obligation arising out of an existing court order is deducted from the parent’s gross income before applying the percentage for child support. This often known as the “first in time, first in right” approach.
The result of this formula is an uneven payment of child support such that the oldest child receives more than his or her younger sibling from a different partner.
The Illinois legislature traditionally considered the first in time, first in right approach fair because the oldest child should not receive less support due to the non-custodial parent’s actions. However, this theory is fatally flawed because it benefits older children to the detriment of their younger siblings.
The progressive New Jersey process creates the most equitable results for multi-partnered families. In New Jersey, the guidelines vest the court with the authority to review and adjust all support orders in a consolidated proceeding by averaging the orders or fashioning some other resolution that treats all supported children fairly.
New legislation promulgated by the Illinois State Bar Association seeks to address these concerns by utilizing a different model to calculate child support obligations rather than the archaic percentage of income model.