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Kane County family law attorney child support

Child support allows parents to share the costs of raising a child even if they are unmarried or divorced. If you are thinking of getting divorced or you are an unmarried parent, you may have questions about your child support rights and responsibilities. You may be curious as to the amount of child support you or your child’s other parent will pay. In Illinois, child support is usually determined by statutory formulas, but there are also cases in which courts deviate from these formulas.

Child Support Calculation in Illinois  

Prior to 2016, child support in Illinois was almost exclusively based on the paying parent’s income. The higher the income of the paying parent or “obligor,” the higher the child support payment. Illinois now uses the Income Shares Model to determine child support payment amounts. This calculation method uses both parents’ income to reach an appropriate child support payment.

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How Can I Change My Child Support Order? Child support payments allow divorced or unmarried parents to effectively split the costs associated with raising children. In Illinois, the amount a parent pays in child support is largely based on the difference between the parents’ net incomes. When there is a significant change in a parent’s financial circumstances, the needs of the child, or in the way the parents divide parenting time, a child support order modification may be necessary. However, changing your child support order is not always as simple as it may seem.

Calculating Child Support Payments in Illinois

Illinois child support orders are determined using the Income Shares method. First, the parents’ individual net incomes are added together to find the combined net income. The combined net income is then compared to a chart created by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to find the “basic child support obligation.” This figure represents the total financial support for which both parents are responsible. The basic child support obligation is allocated to the parents based on their respective shares of the combined net income. In shared parenting situations, meaning each parent has at least 146 overnights with the child each year, the amount the obligor parent pays in child support is reduced by his or her allotment of parenting time.

Do I Qualify for a Child Support Modification?

Illinois courts do not grant child support modifications for just any reason. You will need to show evidence that the modification is warranted. Illinois law states that a child support order may be eligible for modification if:

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What to Do If You Cannot Afford to Pay Child SupportNot all cases of a parent failing to pay child support involve “deadbeat” parents who are trying to shirk their financial responsibility. Sometimes, a parent cannot afford the payments due to circumstances that are out of their control, such as:

  • Losing their job
  • Suffering an injury that prevents them from working
  • Being forced to make a major purchase or go into debt because of an emergency

If you find yourself unable to keep up with your child support payments, you need to present the problem in court and see if you can reduce your payments.

What Not to Do

You can be found in contempt of a court order if you do not pay child support, even if you cannot afford the payments. Do not assume that it is okay to miss a payment without saying anything to your co-parent. Regardless of your financial means, you are still knowingly violating your child support order. You should also avoid creating an informal agreement with your co-parent where you reduce your child support payments or defer payment. A family law court will not recognize changes to your child support payments that are made outside of the court-approved order. An informal agreement will likely not protect you if your co-parent files a complaint against you for not paying child support.

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Requesting Child Support as a FatherA stereotypical parenting agreement in a divorce results in the children living with the mother and the father paying child support. A father who does not make his required child support payments may be labeled a deadbeat, and the mother may go to court to enforce the payments. However, divorced fathers sometimes do not do enough to pursue child support from the mother when the parenting roles are reversed. They may be following a societal bias about their parental role, even though the law does not have the same bias.

A Father’s Role

It is still a common family arrangement for the father to be the provider and the mother to be the caretaker, but there are more families that do not follow those gender roles than in previous decades. It may be more sensible for the father to be the primary caretaker if:

  • The mother has a more demanding and profitable career;
  • The father’s career gives him more flexibility with his hours; or
  • The father is a more nurturing and attentive parent.

However, parents tend to view divorce through traditional gender roles, even when their marital roles were not traditional. A mother may feel entitled to a majority of the parental responsibilities and assume that she will not pay child support. A father may assume that his role is to pay child support and feel that asking for support is emasculating.

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Enforcing Child Support Payments from Your Co-ParentIllinois made its child support system more equitable when it started using an income shares model to determine payments. With the model, each parent pays a share of the total child-related expenses that is proportionate to their comparative incomes. Still, some parents do not pay their mandated child support, leaving the other parent with a disproportionate financial burden. As a parent, you have legal means of enforcing your child support agreement. A court or state agency can seize the money from your co-parent or punish him or her for not complying.

State Agencies

You can ask the Illinois Department of Child Support Services to enforce your child support agreement if the state processes your child support payments. The DCSS will investigate your claim to confirm that your co-parent is not making the required child support payments. The DCSS has several ways of enforcing child support orders, including:

  • Garnishing your co-parent’s wages or bank accounts;
  • Taking his or her federal and state income tax refunds;
  • Placing a lien on his or her property;
  • Suspending or revoking his or her driver’s license;
  • Denying his or her passport; or
  • Requesting criminal prosecution because your co-parent is in contempt of a court order.

The DCSS will decide which mechanism to use based on how much your co-parent owes and whether he or she has a history of missing payments.

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