If you are going through a parentage case or a divorce in Illinois that involves children, there are a number of issues that must be decided, including which parent is obligated to pay child support. Child support payment are used to provide children the same financial security as if their parents were still living together and/or not divorced. Typically, child support is paid to the parent who is awarded the majority of the parenting time. In 2016 and 2017, many significant changes were made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which addressed issues including child support and child custody (now called allocation of parental responsibilities). In Illinois, child support is governed by statute and calculated pursuant to the guidelines set forth in the statute.
In 2016, changes in Illinois law eliminated the labels and concepts of sole custody and joint custody. The law now focuses on allocating specific responsibilities to each parent. Further, non-residential parents are no longer given what was known as visitation rights. Rather, parents are each allocated parenting time (previously known as visitation) in accordance with the best interests of the child.
In July of 2017, additional changes to Illinois law were made that redefined how child support payments are calculated. Child support is no longer calculated based on a fixed percentage of the non-residential parent’s income. Now, the Court views the amount of support to be paid as the money needed to care of a child based on both parents’ combined income. The Court will then divide this amount between the parents, taking into account each parent’s net income as well as their respective amounts of parenting time and parental responsibility.
The new method of calculating child support payments takes into account both parents’ income and the amount of parenting time each parent has with his or her children. Child support payments are determined using the following formula:
- Both parents’ net incomes are established and these incomes are added together to determine a combined net income.
- A Basic Support Obligation is then calculated using tables provided by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The amount of the Basic Support Obligation is based on the combined net income and the number of children being supported. This obligation is intended to represent the amount of money that parents would have spent to care for their children if they had remained married or stayed together.
- The Basic Support Obligation is next allocated between the parents based on the percentage that each parent contributes to the combined net income. The paying parent will pay their portion of the obligation to the other parent. The receiving parent is presumed to be directly contributing his or her portion of the obligation toward caring for the children. The rationale behind these calculations is that both parents have a legal duty to provide financial support for their children and to ensure that their children’s physical and emotional needs are being met.
Additional calculations will be required to divide the Basic Support Obligation between parents based on their percentage of parenting time (in cases when children stay overnight with each parent for at least 146 days each year). In addition to the basic support obligation, parents may be required to contribute to other child related expenses including, child care, medical insurance and medical expenses, and extracurricular activities.
While the method for calculating child support obligations may appear to be straightforward, these calculations can become incredibly complex, especially when one or both parents earns a large income. While the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services has provided tables that allow for the simple conversion of gross income to net income based on standardized tax amounts, it is still necessary to determine each parent’s actual net income before determining each parent’s child support obligation.
One issue that can arise when calculating child support is determining net income when one of both of the parents itemizes tax deductions. The basic calculations for determining net income do not take these types of deductions into account. Additional issues include: who claims the child for tax purposes, bonuses and commissions, unemployment compensation and children from prior relationships. Now that Illinois uses an income shares model to calculate support, you should work with an experienced child support lawyer to ensure that your child obtains the support he or she needs and that your rights are protected.
Child support calculations can be complicated, especially when deductions are involved and the correct amount of child support payments cannot be determined by simply plugging numbers into a formula. Susan will take the time to fully examine each spouse’s finances so that each parent provides his or her children with the financial support the children deserve. Susan will explain how child support is determined pursuant to the statute and how the law applies to your specific situation.
Susan has experience handling child support issues in divorce and paternity cases and post decree modifications. Typically, there will be adjustments to child support as the circumstances of one or both parents or the child changes over time. If one of the parents loses his or her job or receives a promotion, or the parenting situation changes, or the needs of the child significantly change, the child support agreement may need to be modified. Susan’s clients typically return to her and ask her to assist with post decree modifications as new situations arise.