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wheaton child support lawyerWhen parents decide to end their relationship, including through divorce, legal separation, or the breakup of an unmarried couple, they will want to make sure their children will have everything they need to grow up successfully. In addition to addressing issues related to child custody and making sure both parents can maintain close relationships with their children, parents will also need to address matters related to child support. This form of financial support ensures that both parents will regularly contribute to meeting their children’s needs. Parents will need to understand how their financial obligations toward their children are determined and what types of child-related expenses will need to be addressed.

Calculating Child Support Payments

Since 2017, the state of Illinois has used an “income-sharing” calculation for child support obligations. The state’s laws provide guidelines for how child support payments are calculated. These calculations begin by determining a “basic child support obligation” using a table that specifies the amount that a married couple at the same income level as the parents in question would usually pay on a monthly basis to provide for their children’s basic needs. This table will provide the appropriate amount of support based on a couple’s combined income and number of children.

Each parent will be required to pay a certain percentage of the basic child support obligation based on the percentage of the combined income they earn. For example, if both parents earn the same amount annually, the basic child support obligation would be divided equally between them. If children will be living with one parent the majority of the time, this parent will be presumed to use their income directly to provide for their children’s needs. The other parent will make regular child support payments to the custodial parent. In cases where children live with each parent for equal or near-equal amounts of time, Illinois law provides additional guidelines to calculate the amount of each parent’s obligation based on their percentage of parenting time.

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Wheaton family law attorneysThe COVID-19 pandemic has left many people struggling financially, including parents who pay and receive child support. If you are the receiving parent under the terms of your child support order, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do if your child’s other parent is unable or unwilling to continue making payments during this difficult time. Fortunately, you do have options, and a family law attorney can help you determine the course of action that has the best chance of success in your case.

Options for Pursuing Court-Ordered Child Support Payments

The first thing to note in a child support case is that an order issued by the court is legally binding, and it is never acceptable for a parent to simply stop making court-ordered payments. That said, the way in which you go about resolving the situation with the other parent may depend on your relationship with them, your willingness and ability to work together, and the reasons why they have stopped paying.

If you know that the other parent is experiencing financial hardship related to unemployment or health problems, it may be a good idea to try for a sympathetic approach. Your attorney can help you communicate with the paying parent nonconfrontationally and attempt to reach an agreement on a short-term modification to the payment amount that allows them to contribute within their current means. You can then submit this agreement to the court for approval so that it becomes legally binding. This option may not result in you receiving the full amount you are accustomed to, but some support is often better than none at all.

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Wheaton family law attorneysDivorced and unmarried parents alike will almost certainly encounter the legal matter of child support as the court determines a fair arrangement that financially provides for their children’s needs. In Illinois, the basic child support obligation is meant to provide for costs related to a child’s food, clothing, shelter, and ordinary medical expenses, but in many cases, this does not truly account for everything that a child needs to maintain his or her quality of life. For this reason, the court may consider additional expenses when determining the amount that each parent will be required to contribute.

Additional Expenses Can Be Included 

Depending on factors including the child’s needs, the standard of living he or she could expect in a two-parent household, and each parent’s financial ability to contribute, the court may order that the following expenses be included beyond the basic child support obligation:

  • Educational expenses: Reasonable expenses related to a child’s education can be included in a support order. Depending on the situation, this may include private school tuition, and it can also include college and university expenses for children over the age of 18.
  • Extracurricular activities: The court may hold both parents responsible for expenses associated with activities that enhance a child’s social, cultural, or athletic development, including sports, art classes, music lessons, camps, and more.
  • Child care: The court may include expenses for an in-home or out-of-home child care provider in cases in which child care is necessary for a parent to be able to seek or hold employment or further his or her education.
  • Special needs: A child who has special needs related to his or her physical or mental development may be entitled to support from both parents for additional expenses related to care, treatment, and education.
  • Extraordinary healthcare expenses: The court may order parents to provide for expenses related to health insurance and medical expenses beyond the ordinary, including emergency and life-saving measures as well as ongoing expenses.

In order to determine the full amount of a parent’s child support obligations, the court will often start with the baseline calculation that Illinois uses to determine the basic support obligation, which relies significantly on the combined income of both parents. From there, it may consider the actual or estimated costs of additional expenses and issue an order that justly and equitably distributes obligations between the two parents.

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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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