For anyone thinking about the ins and outs of getting a divorce in Illinois, child support is one of the most important considerations to keep in mind — and can also be one of the most overwhelming and difficult issues to tackle alone.
Fortunately, an experienced attorney can be important in helping you understand the many important puzzle pieces that go into navigating child support — from how support orders may be calculated using Illinois child support guidelines, to what child support is and is not intended to cover.
A Brief Overview of Illinois Child Support Guidelines
As described by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), child support guidelines in Illinois are intended “to establish as State policy an adequate standard of support for a child, subject to the ability of parents to pay” as well as the needs of the child and his or her physical care arrangements.
With this in mind, Illinois determines the amount of money required from each parent based on what is known as an Income-Shares model. This means that child support is based on the incomes of both parents. The basic child support obligation is calculated by:
- determining each parent’s monthly net income using a specific formula;
- adding the parents’ monthly net incomes together to determine the combined monthly net income of the parents;
- selecting the corresponding appropriate amount from the schedule of basic child support obligations based on the parties’ combined monthly net income and number of children; and
- calculating each parent’s percentage share of the basic child support obligation.
Although a monetary obligation is computed for each parent as child support, the share of the receiving parent (known as the obligee) is not payable to the other parent as income (the obligor), and is presumed to be spent directly on the child.
There are also other considerations involved. For instance, if a parent has the minor child or children for at least 146 overnights in a calendar year, there is a modification to the amount — due to the presumption that the parent already contributes a significant amount of support for the child’s needs.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services provides guidelines, worksheets, and online tools to help calculate the percentage of combined net income for parents. You can find one such online child support calculator here. With that said, these tools and resources rarely take into account important and individual factors such as unique tax implications, variable incomes, and extraordinary circumstances warranting a deviation from the guidelines. A knowledgeable local family law attorney can help you weigh all of the unique and specific factors impacting you.
Additionally, the court may also decide to award child support using a different method if it finds that applying the standard guidelines would be inappropriate, inequitable, or unjust. Generally speaking, in considering the decision to deviate from the child support guidelines, the court will examine actors such as…
- the financial resources and needs of the child;
- the financial resources and needs of the parents;
- the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage or civil union not been dissolved; and
- the physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs.
The court then may deviate from the guidelines because of extraordinary medical expenditures necessary to preserve the life or health of one of the parties, or due to additional expenses stemming from a child’s special medical, physical, or developmental needs. Any deviation from the guidelines must be accompanied by written findings by the court specifying the reasons for the deviation, and the presumed amount under the child support guidelines without a deviation.
Child support is paid until a minor child turns 18 or graduates from high school, but in no event does child support extend beyond a child’s 19th birthday. Child support is always modifiable, provided that the petitioning party can show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as a large change in income. There are other non-financial factors that may warrant a modification of child support, including the child spending more overnights with the other parent or if arrangements must be made for payment of other expenses that had not previously been considered.
What’s Included in Child Support?
Broadly speaking, IMDMA makes clear that the duty of support owed to a child “includes the obligation to provide for the reasonable and necessary physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child.” This might include everyday expenses such as clothing, food, and shelter.
The court may also order a duty of support in addition to the basic child support obligation. For instance, at its discretion, the court may order either or both parents to contribute to:
Extracurricular and school expenses.
This includes “reasonable school and extracurricular activities incurred” meant to “enhance the educational, athletic, social, or cultural development of the child.” Importantly, college payments and related educational expenses (such as vocational or professional training post-high school) are handled separately, through a petition for educational expenses for a non-minor child. You can read more about such matters on our site, here.
Child care expenses.
The court may order either or both parents to contribute to the reasonable child care expenses of the child. This includes “actual expenses reasonably necessary to enable a parent or non-parent custodian to be employed, to attend educational or vocational training programs to improve employment opportunities, or to search for employment,” as well as “deposits for securing placement in a child care program, the cost of before and after school care, and camps when school is not in session.” A child’s special needs must be considered in determining reasonable child care expenses. The amount of child care expenses shall be adequate to obtain reasonable and necessary child care, and are prorated in proportion to each parent’s percentage share of combined net income.
Health care and insurance.
A portion of the basic child support obligation is intended to cover basic ordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as deductibles and copayments. At its discretion, the court can also order either or both parents to initiate health insurance coverage for the child “through currently effective health insurance policies held by the parent or parents, purchase one or more or all health, dental, or vision insurance policies for the child, or provide for the child’s current and future medical needs through some other manner.” The court may also order either or both parents to contribute to the reasonable health care needs of the child not covered by insurance, including but not limited to “unreimbursed medical, dental, orthodontic, or vision expenses and any prescription medication for the child not covered under the child’s health insurance.”
Interested In Learning More About Any Aspect of Child Support or Family Law in Chicago?
You don’t have to go through this stressful time alone. It is important to speak with an experienced child support attorney to determine what child support issues you may have.
Like most areas of the law, individual situations warrant a detailed and thorough assessment. Procedures to modify child support, terminate it, or adjust arrearages, for example, are not easy to navigate without the help of an experienced child support lawyer who understands how this process works in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
That’s where The Law Offices of J. Jeltes, Ltd. come in. Our skilled attorneys can handle all of the pieces involved in a contested or uncontested divorce, including issues of property division, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), and allocation of marital debt. Whether married or unmarried, we can also handle child-related matters including child support, allocation of parental responsibility, and parenting time.
With more than 20 years of combined experience, our legal professionals are driven, attentive, and dedicated to achieving the best results possible. We truly understand that every situation is unique, and before hiring our firm our attorneys will provide you with a comprehensive one-on-one consultation to discuss your legal concerns and goals in depth.
If you have any more questions about child support or any other aspect of family law in Illinois, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of experienced and compassionate advocates to continue the conversation.