Both parents are expected to financially support their children; the custodial parent may provide for the children in their day-to-day care for the children, while the noncustodial parent will provide support in the form of payments to the custodial parent. To calculate the child support payment amounts, Illinois operates under an “income shares model.”
Under the income shares model, parents must first add up their net incomes, which includes all earned and unearned incomes (e.g., wages, commissions, investment earnings) minus any applicable deductions like federal and state income taxes, mandatory retirement contributions, and expenses necessary to produce income.
With the above information, parents can fill out Illinois’ child support estimator available online to get a rough estimate of how much they may be expected to pay.
Note that a court may “impute” potential income, or assign a potential income amount, to a parent if they believe a parent who doesn’t have any income is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed for the purpose of avoiding their child support obligation. Unless the parent shows evidence that they are seriously looking for stable employment or have a disability, a judge might impute an income based on the parent's most recent job or local job opportunities that the parent would qualify for depending on their training and experience. If there is no evidence of greater earning ability, a court may impute income at minimum wage.
Grounds for Adjustment
While judges must begin the child support calculations using the above state-approved formula, they may make adjustments if they believe that the guideline amount doesn't adequately address a child's best interests, including:
- the child's probable standard of living had the parents stayed together;
- the child's physical and emotional condition;
- the child's educational needs;
- the financial resources and needs of the child and both parents.
For instance, a court may add expenses to the guideline amount for items like daycare, healthcare, extracurricular activities, or private school tuition. Alternatively, a very high-income parent may be able to pay more than the calculated amount, and a very low-income parent may need to pay less. The court may also deviate if either parent has extraordinary medical expenses, additional expenses due to the child's special needs, or for any other reason that a judge believes the guidelines are inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate.
Termination and Modification
Child support obligations in Illinois end when the child turns 18 years old or until the child graduates high school or turns 19 years old. The obligation may continue beyond this if the child is disabled and incapable of becoming self-supporting.
Naturally, circumstances change over time as the child grows up and develops different needs compared to when the order was first issued. Either parent has the right to seek modification of an existing child support order if they can show the court that:
- there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last order; or
- there is a discrepancy of at least 20% (no less than $10/month) between the existing order and a new calculation using the guidelines.
If you have questions about child support in Illinois, whether you seek an estimation of the support amount or want to petition for a modification of an existing order, The Law Offices of Andrew Nickel can help. Attorneys Andrew and Hope Nickel are experienced and strategic lawyers who will work directly with you to resolve all your legal child support concerns.