In Illinois, parental income has long been an important factor in establishing the terms of a child support order. Since 2017, this now includes the income of both parents, rather than just the paying parent. As such, changes to either parent’s income can have a significant impact on the amount to be paid. Perhaps the most dramatic change in income a parent may experience is the loss of their job. If you or your child’s other parent have recently become unemployed, you should be aware of how this can affect child support moving forward.
Unemployment and Initial Child Support Calculations
Whether a child support order is established during the divorce process or after an adjudication of paternity, the size of the payments is determined in large part by each parent’s income at the time. Obviously, when a parent is unemployed, they will not have any wages to factor into the calculation, but unemployment can still influence the calculation in other ways, depending on whether a parent is involuntarily or voluntarily unemployed.
When a parent has lost their job involuntarily, perhaps due to lay-offs, furloughs, or other forms of employment termination, they may be eligible for state unemployment insurance benefits in Illinois. These benefits typically come in the form of bi-weekly payments, with increased benefits available for parents who have a dependent child. These benefits are considered income for the purposes of calculating child support, so a parent on unemployment benefits will need to report the amount to the court.
When a parent is voluntarily unemployed, meaning they have left their job or have chosen not to pursue employment, they will usually not be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, in these cases, the court may consider the parent’s potential income when calculating child support. The court will look at evidence including the parent’s past earnings, employment history, and education, as well as job opportunities within the community. Potential income usually applies to working parents who may be attempting to reduce their child support obligation, rather than stay-at-home parents who have forgone employment to focus on caring for their children.
Modifying Child Support Due to Unemployment
In many cases, working parents become involuntarily unemployed after a child support order has been issued. A receiving parent who loses their job could need more resources to provide for their children, while a paying parent could struggle to fulfill the court-ordered payments. In these cases, either parent can petition the court for a modification of the child support order based on a substantial change in circumstances. Court approval of a modification can provide financial relief, but it is important to make every effort to follow the original order until the petition has been resolved.