What Is Child Support?
Child support is the terminology used to describe the periodic or ongoing payments one parent makes to the other following a divorce to assist in raising their shared children. Child support is thus a combination of both financial and emotional obligations on behalf of parents in the effort to provide for their child’s or children’s physical, emotional and mental well-being(s). When a child’s parents get into a situation where they are no longer living together or they divorce, the child’s residential parent is entitled to support from the non-residential parent. Child support in Illinois is intended to offset the burden of child-related costs and maintain consistency in the children’s standard of living as they move between two homes. So, in a situation where one parent has less income or has the children a greater amount of time than the other, child support allows the parent to more easily accommodate the children’s needs.
This Is Child Support
Generally, child support may be used expenses required to maintain a safe and decent home for the child(ren) and include:
- ordinary household expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, utilities, furnishings
- clothing, toys, and other basic needs of the child
- school supplies, books, school fees, the cost to play sports, clubs, lessons, and extra-curricular activities
- medical expenses, eye glasses, dental care, and other such wellness needs
This Is Not Child Support
Child support is intended solely to support the children and therefore, a parent receiving support should not be using the money for their own clothing, entertainment, or other personal services such as dining out or a vacation without their child. Child support certainly should not be used to purchase products that are not intended for children’s use, such as, alcohol, tobacco, tattoos, and firearms.
In the event that the receiving parent has money left over in a given month, the parent should save the money and apply the savings and interest towards a future need of the child. In all cases however, the parties should review their parenting agreement and consult with an attorney to clarify any other stipulations about which parent is responsible for what, and what other expenses might be considered child support.
Who Is Responsible For Child Support In Illinois?
Prior to July 1, 2017, Illinois’ child support calculations were primarily determined by the income of the parent who was going to owe payments and the number of minor children belonging to the parties (the obligor).
Illinois Child Support Old Law
Illinois child support law has traditionally been calculated by taking the obligor’s net income (gross income, minus taxes and other deductions), and applying a certain percentage based on the number of minor children, for example. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act ( IMDMA) guidelines required that from his/her net income, a support-paying parent must pay twenty percent (20%) for one child; twenty-eight percent (28%) for two children; thirty-two percent (32%) for three children; forty percent (40%) for four children; forty-five percent (45%) for five; and fifty percent (50%) for six plus children to the other parent (the oblige). Net income is determined after making deductions for taxes, social security, retirement contributions, health insurance and any other deduction permitted under state law.
Illinois Child Support New Law
Under the new Illinois child support law, both parents’ incomes are considered when calculating support. Thus, child support is calculated based on the combined net incomes of both parents. The old method of using flat percentages based on the number of children is no longer be used. Instead, child support is now calculated as follows:
- Determine each parent’s “net income” by running their gross incomes through a gross to net conversion chart.
- Combine both parents’ net incomes to determine the combined net income.
- Determine what percentages of the combined net income is represented by each parent’s net incomes.
- The combined net income from step 2 will be plugged into an income shares chart to determine the basic child support obligation.
- Multiply the resulting number from step 4 with the percentages from step 3, for each parent.
- The resulting numbers are each parent’s child support obligations. The number for the non-paying parent, typically the parent with the majority of parenting time, will be presumed to already be applied to the child. The number for the paying parent will be that parent’s child support obligation and must be paid to the non-paying parent.
Under the new income-shares model, Illinois courts consider that the typical costs to raise a child for a family should resemble the income level that would have been in place had the parents involved in each case stayed together. Accordingly, if each parent is working and earning income, both sets of income are added together to arrive at the amount necessary to raise the child(ren). In considering the costs of raising a child or children, Illinois courts will take into account the cost of housing, clothes, food, transportation, ordinary uncovered medical expenses, ordinary extracurricular activities, entertainment and education. Judges are also free to consider any other extraordinary circumstances in setting support.
How Does The Court Determine The Amount Of Child Support The Paying Parent Is To Pay?
The contribution methods of the new model is explained below. The portion of the support owed by the parent with whom the child lives with is assumed to have been paid by the new model due to the assumed costs of upkeep for the child and the child’s residence. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) provides state minimums that Illinois courts use when determining the amount of child support obligations a parent owes.
Generally, the amount of child support is determined by a standardized income table as well as the number of children born to the parties, the incomes of both parents, and the allocation of parenting time. Child support obligations will depend, in part, on how much each parent contributed to the combined household income while married, and the courts will also factor in how much time each parent can and wants to spend with the child in deciding how much each parent owes.
As the courts have begun to adapt to the new rules, many attorneys are hoping that child support cases can become less of a battle over income and more of an exercise in practicality. For example, under the new calculations, a mother with residential parenting time who is fighting with the father over visitation time, could agree to let the father look after the kids more often as he wishes. In this situation, instead of fighting the father over the length of time he has with the children, she is saving time for herself and the money she would have been spending on legal fees and childcare.
Child Support in Illinois Is Still Decided For the Best Interest of the Child
Illinois courts will sometimes order child support payments that deviate from the state minimum requirements if the court finds deviating to be in the best interest of the child(ren). The court will use several factors to determine the best interest of the child, including:
- the financial needs of the child,
- the financial responsibilities and needs of both parents,
- the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child,
- and the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents remained together.
Once an order of child support is entered, the order may only be modified if a court finds that a change in circumstances warrants a modification. Further, an order for child support will terminate upon the child turning eighteen years old or upon graduation from high school if the child turns eighteen and is still in high school. However, child support will usually not be ordered past the nineteenth birthday of child.
It is important for parents to keep in mind child support is an independent obligation and should be preserved despite other problems which may arise between parents, such as disagreements regarding visitation.