Despite the circumstances of their relationship, both parents have a legal obligation to provide ongoing financial support to cover their child's expenses. Deemed as a legally permissible way to ensure a child is adequately provided for, child support ensures a child's right to maintain the lifestyle they became accustomed to regardless of where they reside and with whom they live. The support is established on the basis that children deserve to maintain the benefits from both parents' incomes in the exact same fashion they would if their parents were still together. Child support is customarily issued after paternity is lawfully determined or during the process of a dissolution of marriage. The Court may find either parent responsible for paying a contribution to the support of each child.
Illinois Child Support Considerations
There are several ways to go about applying for child support in Illinois. Parents either file court documents as part of a legal separation or dissolution of marriage, or they file through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Division of Child Support Services (IV-D Services). Whichever method a parent chooses, hiring a family law attorney will speed up the process and help a parent represent their case in a way that will be effective. Legal representation is particularly helpful in cases when a parent has a bad relationship with their ex-partner. Simply finding a parent that may have relocated or determining how much the other parent earns are tasks that may be difficult for an individual to tackle by themselves.
Determining Child Support
Essentially, child support is the total amount of money a parent is required to pay per month until the child turns 18 years old. In Illinois, the amount paid has heavily depended on a parent's net income and the number of children he or she has. In many cases, judges would follow an outdated, one-size-fits-all method of assigning payments that didn't take the other parent's income or other comprehensive factors into account.
Judges have applied the following guidelines to an obligor's net income in Illinois child support cases:
- One child - 20% of net income
- Two children - 28% of net income
- Three children - 32% of net income
- Four children - 40% of net income
- Five children - 45% of net income
- Six children or more - 50% of net income
Income Shares Model
A new law, which will go into effect July 1, 2017, will replace these minimum guidelines with the “income shares” model - a method already enacted in most other states. Courts will be able to refer to economic tables provided by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which will determine the money allocation through a calculation of how the family funds would be distributed for a similarly situated couple living together.
The combined income of both parents, the cost of living and the number of children will now be considered to ensure that each parent is accountable to pay a proportional amount based on their relative or potential incomes (if unemployed or underemployed). In addition, the amount of time spent with each parent will be a factor in assessing child support quantities on behalf of both parents. Obviously, joint parenting situations will necessitate variations in calculations. These changes may result in some parents paying less or more than they would have under the previous law.
Extraordinary or Special Expenses
One matter that will not change despite the impending new law is the Court's probability of appending additional expenses. A basic child support obligation consists of food, shelter, clothing and medical expenses. As a parent, you know there is so much more that goes into raising children than just feeding them and making sure there is a roof over their heads.
Here is a list of expenses that are not included in the basic child support calculation:
- Laptops for school
- Involvement in extracurricular activities (sports, dance lessons, music lessons etc.)
- Religious or traditional celebrations (Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, sweet 16 celebrations, quinceaneras, Confirmations etc.)
- Private school
- Summer programs
- Car insurance
All of these and others not included are considered “extraordinary” expenses and must be negotiated outside of this order to ensure that the children are afforded the opportunity to receive these benefits, too. Under federal guidelines, these expenses could be added to a basic table amount if the Court finds they are in line with a child's best interest. Including these expenses requires noting the particulars, such as total costs, each parent's contribution, payment dates and any other relevant information. Consulting with skilled legal representation can exponentially increase a parent's chances of consideration of these expenses in a court of law.
The End of Child Support Obligations
As stated above, most child support orders end when a child turns 18 years of age. In the event any of the following events occur, a child becomes “emancipated” in the eyes of the law and child support is no longer appropriate:
- The child gets married
- The child gets a job and no longer requires their parent's support
- The child moves out on their own and chooses to be independent
- The child joins the military
Illinois Family Law Attorneys
Child support orders are highly individualized and vary based on the circumstances of a case. The attorneys at Benassi & Benassi have extensive knowledge of the complex nature of child support cases. Our goal is to help you and your counterpart determine an amount that reflects your contributions as parents. More importantly, we want to make sure the order is carried out with the best interest of the child in mind. Don't let your children suffer the economic consequences of your dissolution or separation.