Calculating Child Support
Child support in Illinois is generally calculated using a formula known as the Income Shares Model, which is designed to fairly allocate financial responsibility between parents for the support of their children. The formula takes into account the income of both parents, the number of children involved, the tax filings of the parties and various expenses incurred for the benefit of the children, such as those related to childcare, healthcare, and education. The number of overnights allocated to each parent can also change the child support calculation, as well. Which of the two calculations is applied depends on whether the parent with less parenting time has 40% or more overnights with the minor children.
The Percentage Model is how Illinois law previously applied child support calculations, which essentially determined support as a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. Illinois moved from the Percentage Model to the Income Shares model on July 1, 20217. Even if your existing child support order was entered prior to July 1, 2017, which is when the Illinois domestic support laws changed, the Court would still not determine support using the previous support law. Rather than the Percentage Model (i.e., 20% of the parent’s income for one child), the Illinois Child Support Court determines support using the Income Shares Model, regardless. Note that the change in the Illinois child support law does not sufficiently provide a legal basis to modify or re-determine the support calculation.
Reducing Your Child Support obligation
To request a child support modification in Court effectively requests the Court to supply the same formula as when the initial child support determination is made. To modify support calculated under an existing support order, certain factors have to be proven by the party requesting the modification. Typically, Illinois child support laws say that a modification is only appropriate based on a “substantial change in circumstances” that occurs after the date of entry of the last child support Court Order.
Here’s a detailed explanation of how child support is calculated in Illinois:
Determining Gross and Net Income
The first step in calculating support in Illinois is to determine each parent’s income. Income is determined and considered as “income from all sources.” Gross Income is the starting consideration, followed by the determination of each parties net income. While the resulting income utilized in the Illinois child support calculation is net income, the gross income is the starting point. Thereafter, the net income of the parties is determined. Net income is the amount of money left after certain deductions are made, including federal and state taxes, Social Security, mandatory retirement contributions, and, in some cases, union dues. The net income is what the court uses to calculate support. You can calculate your own support using the DHS Illinois Child Support Calculator which is provided by the State of Illinois online.
Combining Net Incomes
The next step is to add together the net incomes of both parents. This combined income represents the total financial resources available for support. The basic child support obligation can be determined after the combined income of the parties is ascertained.
Determining the Basic Child Support Obligation
Illinois has a schedule that outlines the basic support obligation based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children involved. This schedule helps determine the amount of financial support required to raise the children. The State of Illinois has created tables for different income levels in an effort to make the calculation process fair and standardized.
Once the basic support obligation is determined, it needs to be allocated between the parents based on their respective incomes. Each parent is responsible for a percentage of the total child support obligation that corresponds to their share of combined income. This essentially reflects the idea that both parents should contribute to support in proportion to their income.
Factoring in Additional Expenses
On top of the basic child support obligation, the court may consider other child-related expenses. These include educational expenses, and daycare. These additional expenses are sometimes divided 50/50 and sometimes divided between the parents based on their income percentages. For example, if one parent earns 70% of the combined income, they would be responsible for 70% of these additional expenses when the division is made on a “pro rata” basis.
Determining the Final Child Support Amount
The final support amount is the sum of the basic child support obligation after deductions. This amount is the total support obligation that the non-custodial parent (the parent with whom the child does not primarily reside) is required to pay to the custodial parent (the parent with whom the child primarily resides).
Deviations and Adjustments
In some cases, the court may consider deviations from the standard support calculation. These deviations can occur if there are specific circumstances that warrant a change in the child support amount, such as extraordinary medical expenses. Although Courts have the discretion to adjust the support amount accordingly, most of the time the Courts follow the guidelines outlined pursuant to Illinois law.
Collection Collection and Disbursement
Once the child support order is established, the Illinois State Disbursement Unit (ILSDU) comes into play to facilitate the collection and distribution of support payments. Non-custodial parents make their payments to the ILSDU, which then disburses the funds to the custodial parent. The ILSDU does not engage in child support enforcement; the ILSDU simply takes the payments from the non-custodial parent and forwards the funds to the custodial parent. Note that the custodial parent is referred to as the “payor” and the non-custodial parent is referred to as the “payee.”
Getting Child Support Ordered in Court
If paternity has not already been established, that will be the first step. Illinois law requires legal parentage to be established before a parent can be put on child support. Your legal parentage is from where each and every one of your parental rights and obligation arise. Having your name on the birth certificate is usually totally inadequate. The birth certificate is largely ceremonial in nature and for vital records or statistical purposes. As such, your parental rights are not secured simply because a person is named is on the birth certificate. The person named on the birth certificate is not necessarily the legal parent, especially for paternity or legal fatherhood. There are three forms of legal recognition for paternity: Voluntary Acknowledgments of Paternity (VAPs), Adjudications of Parentage, and the marital presumption of parentage.
The VAP is an acknowledgment form that are usually signed at the hospital in which the child is born, which can create an administrative legal determination of paternity. Adjudication of paternity means a judge has entered a Court Order finding legal paternity. The third form of legal acknowledgment is call the “marital presumption of parentage,” which is the law that says any person married to a person who gave birth to a minor child is presumed to be the legal parent of that minor child. This requires no paperwork, because the “marital presumption of paternity” applies by operation of law. For the same reasons, Voluntary Acknowledgments of Paternity are only utilized for unmarried parties. There are two forms of legal fatherhood for unmarried parents: Judgment of Paternity and VAP. Executing a lawful VAP and sending it to the State does create a legal parent-child relationship, but a judge’s adjudication of parentage is the most secure form of legal parentage for unmarried parties.
Pro Legal Care can help you go through the process, which may involve an adjudication of paternity and other legal documentation, as well as genetic testing to determine the biological and legal relationship between the child and the alleged father.
File a Petition with the Court
With the assistance of HFS or your private attorney, or on behalf of yourself without assistance, you will file a petition with the appropriate Illinois court requesting the establishment of a support order. The court will review your case and schedule a hearing. The petition being filed with the Court triggers certain civil procedures provided by law, including the rights of all parties to the case to be heard and respond in writing in a Court pleading known as an answer, if they wish. Filing pleadings of this nature can be challenging without the help of a child support lawyer.
Attend the Court Hearing
Both parents may or may not be required to attend the court hearing, however, both parties have the right to attend voluntarily. During the hearing, the judge will assess the financial circumstances of both parents, consider the needs of the child(ren), apply the support formula, and make a determination regarding the support order. This is when the Court enters a Child Support Order that causes the imposition of a child support obligation on either parent. The Court will expect each party to provide their own proposed support calculations so that the Court knows what each party is requesting. Self-represented parties often simply show up to Court and ask the judge to do the child support calculation, but the best practice is to provide all parties as well as the Court with copies of your support calculation.
Receive the Child Support Order
After the court hearing, the judge will issue a support order that specifies the amount and terms of support payments. This order will also include information on how and where payments are to be made. Child support is normally withheld from a parent’s paycheck through a document related to the child support order called a “notice of withholding.”
Compliance and Modifications
Both parents are required to comply with the terms of the child support order. If circumstances change, such as changes in income or custody arrangements, either parent can request a modification of the support order by petitioning the court. Changes in employment are the most common reasons that constitute “a substantial change in circumstances” for purposes of support modifications. However, other circumstantial changes are also considered, such as financial circumstances and the needs of the children.
Terminating Child Support
No parent should continue to have to pay child support when the child is an emancipated adult, however, you may have to go to Court or file a Motion to Terminate Support with the Clerk of Court to accomplish the termination of your support obligation. Your initial child support order may or may not have included a future date upon which the principal ongoing support obligation would cease, but that is subject to change and does not necessarily eliminate the need to obtain a future Court Order specifically stating that the child support obligation no longer exists when that time comes.
The State Disbursement Unit
The Illinois State Disbursement Unit (ILSDU) is a centralized agency dedicated to efficiently managing and disbursing support payments in the state of Illinois. Established in response to federal legislation, the ILSDU plays a pivotal role in ensuring that children receive the financial support they need from non-custodial parents.
The three main functions of the ILSDU are collecting child support payments, maintaining detailed records of support accounts, and distributing funds to custodial parents or guardians. The ILSDU employs modern technology, including automated systems and a secure online portal, to streamline the process and minimize errors.
A common misconception in child support law is that the State Disbursement Unit enforces child support orders when non-custodial parents fail to meet their obligations, employing measures like wage garnishment, tax refund interception, and legal actions to ensure compliance. In reality, the State Disbursement Unit has none of these enforcement mechanisms. Generally, child support enforcement is done in Court or through governments agencies.
Scheduling a Consultation with an Illinois Child Support Lawyer
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or having problems navigating the system, schedule a consultation with Attorney Zach Townsend today by calling or texting (815) 200-8802. During your consultation, you’ll go over the history of your legal matter and your goals, and Attorney Townsend will help you create a new path forward for your family.
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