Do I have to pay child support when my child is away from their primary residence?

We are often contacted for assistance after a parent stops receiving their court-ordered child support. We first look to see when the last support order was entered. We then review the terms of the support obligation. Our next step is to see if anything has been filed by the obligor regarding modifying the support order. The “obligor” is the person who is ordered to pay support to the other parent. The parent receiving support is the “obligee.” More frequently than not, the obligor has not filed anything with the court to officially modify their support obligation. Therefore, the obligee can ask the court to enforce the support order, as the obligor is now in arrears.

Pursuant to Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/510), a child support obligation can be modified, in most cases, upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. However, in order to formally modify the support obligation, a party must first file a motion with the court. The party requesting the modification must give due notice of their filing to the other party.

It is common to hear that an obligor stopped paying their support obligation because they were laid off or fired by their employer. It is also common to hear that an obligor stopped paying their support obligation because they were injured or maybe they are having serious medical issues. Although it depends on the specific facts of the case, any of these examples could potentially result in a finding of a substantial change in circumstances and thus could warrant a modification of the current support order.   Almost as common as the above-mentioned examples, we have cases where issues arise between parties because a child is away from the child’s primary residence. For example, a child may have a physical illness that requires medical attention, perhaps surgery. It is likely that the child is spending a significant amount of time in the hospital and away from their primary residence. What about a child receiving mental health treatment? It’s typical for a child to be far away from home during these treatments, sometimes even out of state, and it is not unheard of for treatments to range from weeks away from home to months away from home.  Should the obligor’s support obligation be modified during these times?

Unless the terms of your support obligation specifically encompass the unique facts of your case, it is necessary to file a motion to modify before stopping, reducing, or modifying your support obligation.

Whether you are seeking to modify your support obligation or are seeking to enforce the support order in your case, it is recommended that you speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

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