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IL family lawyerIn 2017, Illinois lawmakers changed the way family courts determine child support payments. These changes followed some other significant modifications to the state's laws which redefined child custody and visitation as the allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time. Divorcing parents should be sure to understand their child support obligations and the methods used to determine the amount of child support payments.

Parents’ Combined Income

Before the change in the law, child support payments were determined using a fairly simple calculation that was based on a fixed percentage of the income earned by the non-custodial parent. Under the new laws, child support payments are calculated based on the combined income of both parents. The courts will determine a child support obligation based on what a married couple who earns that combined income would typically spend to care for their child or children. Each parent will be responsible for a certain portion of that obligation based on their percentage of the combined income.

Parenting Time

In many cases, the majority of parenting time will be awarded to one parent and the other will need to make child support payments. If parenting time is split equally, or nearly so, then child support payments are not only based on the income of each parent but also the expenses of each parent in supporting the child. For example, only one parent may pay health insurance premiums. When the income and expenses of each parent are compared when they are both awarded equal parenting time, one parent may be obligated to make child support payments to the other.

Parental Responsibility

There can be many expenses when raising a child which is why it has been reported that it can cost upwards of $230,000 to provide for a child and nurture them to the age of 18. Just some of these expenses that are a large part of parental responsibility include:

  • Health insurance
  • Childcare
  • Extracurricular activities such as sports or clubs
  • School expenses such as uniforms, shoes, fees for trips, etc.

Some parents, depending on their income, are also required to pay some or all of their child’s college costs. These are calculated based on the income of the parents so long as the child is still considered dependent, which is usually until the age of 24. If a student can prove they support themselves independently of their parents, a waiver may be approved. The cost of school or schools the student is applying to is also considered.

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IL divorce lawyerDivorces in which children are involved require legal assistance in a different sense than other divorce cases. Most parents do not come to a custody decision without some disagreements. It is uncommon for both parents to share equal custody of their children. One parent is named the “custodial parent” since the child lives primarily under their roof. The other parent is known as the “non-custodial parent”. The non-custodial parent does not pay for things such as groceries, clothes, or the gas needed to drive the child around every day, they are often required to provide the custodial parent with a set amount of money on a monthly basis in order to compensate for these expenses. These payment amounts are determined by a variety of factors. These include income, bonuses, properties owned, and other forms of financial value owned by both parents. Continue reading to learn how child support payments are regulated based on each individual’s situation.

Unique Solutions to Difficult Situations

Most parents do not have the “American dream job” that pays six figures and has them working 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday. In reality, Americans work a variety of different jobs resulting in numerous “gray areas” for child support payments. Some individuals have the child support payments deducted from their paycheck by their employer to avoid missed payments while others place the responsibility on their own shoulders on a month to month basis. Regardless of the method used, these payments are due monthly and legal action can be taken against anyone who withholds these funds. For those purposely withholding child support payments, their wages can be garnished. This means that the amount will be forcibly removed from their paycheck before the parent receives it, taking away their ability to miss or avoid payments.

Some employers have refused to withhold the child support amount from paychecks despite being ordered to by a court or requested by an employee. While this is not always the case, it is not uncommon. Under every state’s law, an employer must withhold the amount if ordered or requested to do so. If this is the case, the employer will receive a withholding notice notifying them of their obligation. If the employer still refuses to do so, they will be charged the amount personally.

Child support payments can be increasingly difficult for parents that have recently lost their job. While this situation may not be the fault of the unemployed parent, the finances are still owed each month. The best solution in cases like these is a request for a payment adjustment. Because child support payments are determined based on a parent’s income and financial state, it can be adjusted if the parent cannot afford to pay the original allotted amount. If this request is made, a court may require the individual to seek out an employment program to help truncate the amount of time spent paying a lower amount.

For those that are self-employed, regulating income is still possible. This will be done through the Internal Revenue Service. While it may not be possible to withhold income through their employer, there are other forms of withholding that exist. Liens are holds on property until the amount owed is paid. This can include revoking required licenses, securing liens on client payments or garnishing the parent’s bank account.

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IL divorce lawyerFor those who have children and choose to get divorced, child support payments are inevitable. The parent who holds primary custody will often receive the child support payments since they spend the most time, and thus the most money, with the child. These payments are no longer percentage based. The court determines the amount of money needed to care for the child based on his/her parents’ income then divides this amount between the parents. The details of these payments are determined before the divorce papers can be made official; however, certain situations and life-altering events can result in necessary changes being made.

Recent Unemployment

Unemployment does not result in the ending of child support payments. The payments will simply no longer be taken out of your paycheck. If approved for unemployment benefits, the parent should then contact the unemployment office regarding their mandatory child support payments. These payments will then be deducted from their unemployment benefit wages.

Incarceration

If a parent becomes imprisoned and is required to pay child support, the parent can petition for his/her payments to be altered. Some courts will allow for the payments to be reduced or suspended while the parent is in prison. This is not always a guarantee. Often times, the judge will decide that the payments must continue to be paid throughout the parent’s sentence.

Death of a Non-Custodial Parent

The death of a non-custodial parent can cause extreme stress for a parent relying on this extra income to raise their child. There are multiple solutions that can be considered. If the deceased parent has a life insurance policy with the child as the beneficiary, the parent can begin collecting this money for the child immediately. Depending on the deceased parent’s previous employment, the child may also be subject to benefits from the Social Security Administration.

Death of a Custodial Parent

After deciding who will take primary care of the child, the payments will be determined. Payments from the parent's estate or a child support modification may be made if the other parent receives full-custody. If the child is placed into the hands of another relative, the payments should remain similar to their previous amount.

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Posted on in Child Support

Illinois child support lawyerWhen a child support order is created, it is created to provide for the child’s needs effectively based on his or her parents’ income level. It is rare for a child support order to remain appropriate until the child turns 18, the point at which most child support orders terminate. If you are currently paying or receiving child support and your order no longer covers your child’s needs, you can modify your child support order.

Child Support Orders Are Eligible for Review Every Three Years

In Illinois, a child support order can be reviewed every three years to determine if it still meets the child’s needs without creating an undue burden on the child’s parents. During this review period, you and your former spouse have the right to request a modification to your order. After requesting a modification, the court reviews your request to determine whether it is appropriate and applicable.

If you receive child support enforcement services from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, you must prove that a modification would result in a difference of at least 20 percent of your current child support amount and one created with an updated application to state guidelines during this review period.

If an Immediate Change Is Necessary, You Will Have to Prove Why It Is Necessary

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Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family lawyerIt is decidedly common for a noncustodial parent to be dissatisfied about the amount of child support that a court has ordered them to pay. However, this does not excuse them from paying it, even while a modification may be pending. If you are owed child support by your former spouse, this is referred to as an arrearage, and it must be paid, regardless of what other obligations your ex-spouse may have. In Illinois, there are various ways to collect on the debt.

Penalties for Non-Payment

If you owe child support and fall behind in payments without working out an alternative with your ex-spouse (or the court), the state of Illinois will be informed, and possibly federal authorities, depending on your location and the amount owed. If you attempt to disappear to avoid obligations, there are entities such as the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) which exist to track down deadbeat parents, and you may be penalized more for attempting to shirk your commitments. In extreme cases, you may be jailed under the Illinois Non-Support Punishment Act.

If you are located, there are multiple ways in which the state or federal government may obtain the amount owed (in addition to any penalties assessed for your failure to pay), including withholding your tax refund to put toward the arrearage or garnishing your wages. In Illinois, a program called the Family Financial Responsibility Act (known colloquially as the “Deadbeats Don’t Drive” program) also has the power to suspend or revoke your driver’s license until arrearages are paid. It is important to remember that these methods are intended to collect the back child support owed, while any penalties assessed on top of that may have to be paid in a different manner.

When Support Ends

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Illinois divorce lawyer, Illinois family law attorneyWith the multiple issues that must be addressed during the divorce process, it is understandable that tackling the subject of your child’s future college expenses can feel overwhelming, especially when such educational concerns are not immediate. Preparing to fund an education set to take place in the very distant future may not be the first priority on your list while going through a divorce, but it is still an important task when it comes to securing the proper financial means for your child to expand their education down the road.

Who Is Responsible After the Split?

In many states across the nation, Illinois included, courts recognize a child’s need for a college education. This means the courts may have the right to order one or both parties in the divorce to pay for an array of college expenses for the child they share together. They may do this by tapping into the property and income of each parent, or even through the estate of a deceased parent. The law requires the petition for these funds to be raised within a certain timeframe.

Similar to awarding child support values, the amounts the court may order one (or both) of the parties to pay toward a child’s college expenses greatly depend on the circumstances, and the agreement must be negotiated. The court will take many factors into consideration before determining a certain amount. For example, at the time of the hearing, the party’s financial resources will be taken into account. The court may even look at a new spouse’s income. Say you remarry not long after your divorce and begin petitioning for financial help from your ex for your child’s college costs. If your new spouse makes a significant amount of money that raises your overall income considerably, the court may add that hike in income to the equation. So, the question of who is responsible for your child’s college costs will ultimately depend on a combination of these factors.

Which Expenses Count?

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