If you think it may be time to modify child support ordered by an Illinois court, here’s what you need to know. Child support amounts are determined based on the Illinois Child Support Guidelines. Guideline child support is calculated by first determining the parties’ combined net income. This model of calculating support is referred to as “income shares.” That is because our State believes children should be entitled to the same standard of living that they would have had if their parents stayed together.
Once the amount for child support is figured out an order is entered with the Court. However, financial situations may change after the support order is entered. As we know, life tends to happen. The paying parent’s income could significantly increase after the order is entered or the child’s expenses could increase. The possible changes are endless.
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Illinois Child Support Modification
Pursuant to Section 510 (a) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act , “an order for child support may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.” (750 ILCS 5/510) Whether you are the parent paying or the parent receiving support, financial circumstances may arise that make it necessary to revisit the amount of child support being paid.
What happens if your financial situation changes after the original child support is ordered
A few of the most common examples of substantial changes in circumstances are when the paying parent loses their job or when they are injured and can no longer work. If your income changes and you are no longer able to make your ordered support payments, it is in your best interest to take action right away. You are obligated to make your support payments, as ordered, until a new court order is entered. Therefore, it is very important to file a petition with the court asking for appropriate relief.
The alleged change in circumstances must first be proved before a court will entertain modifying the obligation or determining a new support amount. It is unlikely that a court will modify support if the change in income was done voluntarily or if the change was made in bad faith.
It is not uncommon to hear that a paying parent decided to voluntarily quit their job. Sometimes people decide to go back to school. A person might decide to make a career change. Maybe the stress of their job was too much. Maybe they wanted more flexible hours. There are a lot of reasons why people change jobs or make career moves but you have to remember that the State and the courts are concerned with what is in the best interests of the children.
Generally, it is not wise to leave a job without another source of income lined up but there are also cases when the payor had good reason to do so. When a person tries to modify their support obligation after voluntarily leaving a job the outcome in court is a toss-up. It all comes down to the facts of the case. Every case has a unique set of facts.
What about when you lose your job due to no fault of your own?
When people lose their job and it was beyond their control they usually have a better case to argue for child support modification in court. Unfortunately, businesses close, people get laid off, and people are injured on the job. These examples are usually proven to be substantial changes in circumstances that warrant a modification of the payor’s support obligation. However, the modification may not be permanent.
A Judge could order a support obligation to be temporarily modified. In these situations, judges often order the unemployed party to keep a job diary during their employment search. The judge can order a party to apply for a specific number of position per day, per week, per month, etc. When the unemployed party finds employment the support obligation will need to be recalculated based off the new income.
Petition to Modify Child Support
After a party files a petition to modify their support obligation the parties will be required to exchange updated financial information. Discovery may end up being issued to uncover the reason behind the change in income. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, then the court will schedule a hearing to determine if a substantial change in circumstances necessitates a new child support order.
If you’ve experienced what you believe may qualify as a “substantial change of circumstances” since an Illinois court issued your child support order, don’t delay seeking legal assessment. Contact our office to schedule a confidential consultation with our experienced child support lawyers to help you determine if it’s time to modify child support.