If you and your spouse are thinking about a divorce, there will be numerous issues that need to be resolved before you can legally separate from one another. If you have had children together and they are still under the age of 18, one of the primary issues to decide will be child support. Having a Chicago/DuPage family law attorney with you during the process can ensure that your interests are protected and your child gets the support they need to live a full and comfortable life.
In many divorces, issues surrounding child support and child custody are some of the more contentious disputes in the entire process: the highly emotional time frequently leads to concerns over how the children will be raised, how the children will be provided for, and making sure the other parent doesn't take advantage of the child support system for their own benefit.
What Is Child Support?
Child support is a post-divorce payment schedule from one separated spouse to the other, designed to stand in for the financial support that the paying spouse would have contributed, had they remained a live-in parent for the child.
In practice, child support is nothing more than a legal mechanism to ensure that both parents pay their fair share of the financial costs of raising a child. While the child support payments are in a regularly scheduled lump sum – typically due every month – they are used to pay for the costs that accumulate throughout the child's life, from food to clothes to medical care to activity fees.
The Purpose of Child Support
The purpose of child support is simple and straightforward: the law finds no reason why a child should suffer when their parents decided to divorce. Preventing all of the costs of raising a child from falling onto the custodial parent – who is frequently strained from having to return to the workforce to make ends meet, already – is necessary to reach this goal.
Therefore, the law provides a legal mechanism – child support – for custodial parents to use to collect financial support from their ex-spouse following a divorce.
How Child Support is Calculated in Illinois
In Illinois, the amount of child support that courts can order is set by statute. Importantly, this statute has been drastically overhauled in the last few years, so there is a lot of misinformation on how child support is currently calculated.
As of July 1st, 2017, Illinois has adopted an income shares model for determining child support. According to statute, this model aims “to calculate child support based upon the parents' combined adjusted net income estimated to have been allocated to the child if the parents and children were living in an intact household.”
Under the new model for child support, the net incomes of both parents – not just the parent who is responsible for paying child support – are factors in how much a court will order in child support. Using standardized tables, both parents' gross incomes are turned into net incomes and then added together to see what percentage of the total is contributed by each parent. The amount of child support is then determined from those totals and percentages by looking at the share of the parents' income that is commonly spent on raising children.
Read about the changes and use our IL child support calculator to estimate the award in your case. You can also use the child support estimator hosted on the Illinois Child Support Services webpage.
Paying and Collecting Child Support in Illinois
After a divorce, it is important to remember that life goes on. Unfortunately, this can also mean that things change, and possibly for the worse. People get hurt, sick, or lose their jobs, and this can impact their income in ways that can implicate their ability to pay child support.
When the person paying child support stays up to their obligation, there is no need to worry. However, once they stray off or fall behind, there are legal mechanisms to not only help the recipient collect what they are owed, but also for the paying spouse to modify their obligation in a way that is more in line with their new life circumstances.
Enforcing a Child Support Order
If you are receiving child support and your ex-spouse falls behind or stops paying, entirely, you can take the matter to your local child support agency to enforce the order. These agencies can conduct an investigation and help you get the order enforced by, for example, garnishing the paying spouse's wages, intercepting tax refunds, or even placing a lien against their property.
Modifying a Child Support Order
If you are the one paying child support, but life has been difficult and you can no longer make the payments you are supposed to make, you also have legal options. Modifying the support agreement is possible, as courts recognize that things change after a divorce, and sometimes your income can fall beneath what was used to calculate your support obligation. Blindly demanding that you meet an impossibly high amount helps no one, including your child, so courts are open to hearing arguments about why your obligation should be lowered.
Throughout this process, having a skilled divorce and family law attorney like those at Dolci & Weiland can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. This is especially important in tricky situations involving child support, where the future of your child is at stake. Call us for legal help in your child support case at 630-261-9098 (DuPage County) or 312-238-9007 (Chicago-Area).