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Wheaton family law attorneyOne of the most important considerations in a divorce or any co-parenting situation is making sure that children are well provided for by both parents. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, you bear the responsibility to contribute financially to your children’s food, clothing, shelter, health, and education. However, as your financial situation changes, especially during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find it difficult to keep up with the payments in your original child support order. If you have recently been laid off or have experienced an involuntary drop in income, you should consider pursuing a modification to your order.

How Are Child Support Payments Calculated in Illinois?

In Illinois, child support payments are determined by combining both parents’ monthly net incomes and allocating an equitable percentage of the child support obligation to each parent. The calculation also considers the number of children, their needs, and the standard of living they would have experienced in a two-parent household. Typically, the custodial parent fulfills their obligation by spending more time and money caring for the children directly, while the non-custodial parent is expected to make monthly payments to the custodial parent. Because each parent’s income is a significant factor in the calculation, if you have experienced a change in your income, it is important to seek a modification to the order whether you are the custodial or the non-custodial parent.

How to Seek a Modification to a Child Support Order

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) specifies that a child support order can be modified when there is a significant change in the non-custodial parent’s income, but either parent can request a modification at any time if a major change has occurred. After losing your job, you can contact DHFS to request a modification, and you will then be asked to certify your income and expenses, including any unemployment income you are receiving. The Division of Child Support Services will review your case and notify you of any changes to your existing order based on new calculations. If your modification is approved, the decreased payments can be applied retroactively to the date you filed for modification, but until then you should continue making payments according to your previous order to avoid facing penalties.

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Illinois child support attorneysRaising a child takes financial resources, so when you are ordered to pay child support, is important that you fulfill your financial obligation. Unfortunately, life can get in the way. People get injured or laid off from their jobs. Health complications can make it difficult to maintain gainful employment. If any of these (or any other scenarios) apply to your situation, there may be options available to you. Learn more with help from the following information. 

Defaulting is Never an Option

Parents who fall behind on their child support payments sometimes avoid asking for help because they fear it will only increase their overall costs. Yet, if changes to their order for support are not made, the obligated parent may fall far enough behind on their payments to warrant disciplinary action from the state. Such consequences may include:

  • Jail time,
  • Cancellation of one’s driver’s license,
  • Cancellation of a professional license,
  • Wage garnishments,
  • Seizure of tax refunds,
  • Damage to one’s credit,
  • Property liens, and
  • Felony charges. 

All of these consequences can be avoided, so long as immediate action is taken when the parent can no longer meet their court-ordered obligation.

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Wheaton family law attorneysIt takes a great deal of money to raise a child, especially one with special needs. There are often added expenses for medical treatment, therapies, and perhaps even therapeutic or medical equipment. Thankfully, when parents are separated or divorced, these added expenses can be factored into an order for child support. Learn more, including how a seasoned family law attorney can improve the outcome of your case, in the following sections. 

How Child Support is Calculated in Illinois 

Illinois uses what is known as the “income shares” model to determine the amount of support a parent owes. The process starts with an economic table, supplied by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, to determine the cost of raising the child. 

That amount is then compared to the net income of each parent to determine what their obligation of support should be. The closer the receiving parent’s income is to the obligated paying parent, the less the support will generally be. The goal is to try and balance out the cost and ensure that neither parent is overly burdened by the cost of supporting the child. 

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Illinois child support lawyersChild support is designed to ensure a child’s immediate financial needs are met, such as food and clothing for school. It can also go toward a child’s future, giving a parent the power to start up a college fund for the child. Sadly, statistics indicate that only 44 percent of all custodial parents receive the full amount of support that they are owed. 

One California woman had been just one of many who had not received child support after her divorce. Given custody of their daughter, the woman had been left to raise and financially support the child after her ex-husband skipped town and moved to Canada. From there, the man completely disappeared. Fifty years later, the courts awarded the woman a settlement of $150,000. That amount included the overdue support payments of $35,000, as well as penalty fees and interest for four decades of unpaid support. her experience proves it is never too late to pursue the overdue support you are owed. 

Pursuing Overdue Child Support in Illinois

Parents often feel as though they are alone in their pursuit of overdue child support. However, there are resources and services available to them. One of the most invaluable is the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS). They have the power and ability to track down a delinquent parent. They can also impose penalties on the parent to encourage payment. Examples may include suspension of the delinquent parent’s driver’s license or professional license, imprisonment, or putting a “freeze” on the delinquent parent’s passport. 

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Illinois child support attorneysIllinois law states that children have the right to emotional and financial support from both of its biological parents, and it protects those rights through different measures. Child support is one of the more commonly known and discussed, yet obligors are often confused about where their responsibility ends and begins. Moreover, they are not always informed of their rights, such as the right to request a modification if a significant change in circumstances occurs. 

When Can an Obligor Request a Modification to Child Support? 

When child support orders are established, the income of each biological parent is used in the calculations, as are the specific needs of the child (i.e. children with special needs, etc.). The time that each parent spends with the child may have been used as well, but such considerations have only recently become commonplace. If a substantial change has occurred in any of these areas - the income of the biological parents, the child’s needs, or the amount of time that each parent spends with the child - then either parent may request a modification to their order of support.

Since changes are meant to benefit the child, not the parents, some modifications could result in an increase in a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation. For example, if a child needs braces, the receiving parent may petition the courts to obtain additional support from the obligor. 

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