In this article...
In this article we will examine the manner in which the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) has changed their enforcement policies, what has changed, and how does it affect child support obligation enforcement. We will answer the following questions:
- What is DCSS?
- What services does DCSS provide?
- Who is eligible for services under DCSS?
- What are the changes to the Child Support law provisions?
- When are these changes to the law effective?
- What is DCSS doing in response to the changes in the law?
- What is the difference between enforcement prior to 2021 and after?
- Can I still collect the interest on unpaid child support?
- Will DCSS collect the interest on unpaid child support at all?
- Is unpaid child support interest compounding?
- Is the interest accrued on unpaid child support a part of child support?
- Is interest on unpaid support collectable through the same methods as unpaid support?
- How is collected interest for unpaid support treated for tax purposes?
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) provides resources for families and parents to provide necessary care for themselves and their children. These services provided are very broad and varied so there are multiple division which deal with specific services. In certain cases, the State Legislature has provided DHFS or the appropriate sub-department the authority to set their own procedures and provisions related to providing those services.
For specific changes to Illinois Divorce and Family Law in 2021, read our article here: https://www.oflaherty-law.com/learn-about-law/recent-changes-to-illinois-divorce-and-family-law-illinois-divorce-and-family-law-2021
What is the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS)?
The Divisions of Child Support Services (DCSS) is the Illinois agency under the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) that can assist custodial parents with establishing and enforcing child support obligations for minor children.
What services does DCSS provide?
DCSS offers multiple services related to care and support of minor children. This Division can assist parents with the following matters:
- Locating a nonresidential parent (a parent that does not live with the child(ren))
- Legally establish paternity if the parents are not married or in a civil union
- Establish an order for child support and address health insurance needs
- Collect child support payments on an already established child support order
- Modify or change a child support obligation
- Collect past due child support payments
DCSS does not deal with divorce matters or parenting time issues. They strictly deal with the financial aspects related to supporting Minor Children.
Who is eligible for services under DCSS?
Every family in Illinois is eligible to apply for services under DCSS. There is no income requirement. The only eligibility is that you are a resident of Illinois and that you have a Minor Child.
What are the changes to the Illinois Child Support law and enforcement provisions?
DCSS is empowered through the State Legislature to determine the manner and scope of their Child Support Services. In 2020, the Legislature enacted three major changes to the enforcement provisions for Child Support.
First, the statute previously provided that the Department was required to allow the applicant to opt-in to interest enforcement though DCSS for interest enforcement on child support obligations ordered between May 1, 1987 and December 31, 2005. Now, the Legislature has changed the statute to provide that the Department may provide, by rule, if, or how, the Department will enforce interest in cases in which IV-D services are being provided. In essence, the State Legislature now allows DCSS to determine if or how they will enforce any interest. Enforcement is at the option of DFHS instead of being mandatory.
Second, the Child Support enforcement laws allow for the Secretary of State to suspend a person’s driver’s license if they become delinquent on their order child support obligation. Prior to the modification to the statute, the license would remain suspended until the obligation is fully complied with the support order and has fully paid on all arrearages. The revised statute allows for a reinstatement of the driving privileges when the arrearage and child support obligations are provided for in a manner that is “satisfactory” to the Court.
Third, prior to the statutory revisions, DCSS was limited to collecting accrued interest through the manner provided by State law. The Legislature expanded the interest collection provisions to include allowing unpaid interest to be collected by any means available under federal and state law. The revised statute is allowing DCSS to expand interest judgment enforcement to include federal tax intercepts, which they could not do before.
When are these changes to the law effective?
These changes go into effect on January 1, 2021.
What changes has DCSS made in response to the legislative changes?
In response to the legislative changes, DCSS has published a statement which highlights their intention to change the way child support interest is assessed and enforced.
What is the difference between enforcement prior to 2021 and after?
Prior to the Legislative changes, DCSS assessed interest on unpaid monthly child support and would take action in collecting unadjudicated support payments. Additionally, DCSS would pursue judgments for any person that appropriately applied for that service related to unpaid interest.
Beginning January 1, 2021, DCSS will no longer automatically charge interest on past due balances. Additionally, any unadjudicated interest will be removed from the balance being enforced by DCSS. This means without a specific order from a judge establishing an arrearage amount and determining the interest on that arrearage, DCSS will not be involved in enforcing or collecting that interest at all. Prior to 2021, DCSS would also collect a portion of the arrearage amount on a monthly basis but they will no longer take this action. Instead, any interest will now only be collected following the actual child support obligation being paid in full and an appropriate application to DCSS.
Can I still collect the interest on unpaid child support?
Yes, you can still collect interest on unpaid child support. If you are using the services of DCSS to determine and/or enforce child support, you will need to wait until the child support obligation has ceased to accumulate and the principal balance of the child support is paid in full. Child support obligations cease to accrue when the youngest child is emancipated, or the Court orders support to be terminated.
If you choose to pursue child support on your own or represented by a private attorney, you will be able to seek that the Court assess child support and enforce payment of arrear amounts. Once the arrearage amount is established by the Court it accrues statutory interest at a rate of 9% per year.
Will DCSS collect the interest on unpaid child support at all?
Yes, DCSS will collect interest for eligible persons under 89 ILL. Adm. Code 160.89. In order to be eligible for DCSS to establish unadjudicated interest the custodial parent makes a written request and meets all of the following criteria:
- The youngest child is emancipated for which the requesting custodial parent is requesting interest;
- The principal balance for current support is $0.00;
- The minimum amount of interest due to the custodial parent is $500.00; and
- The written request must be received by the Department within one year after meeting the criteria laid out in numbers 1-3.
Is unpaid child support interest compounding?
No. Accrued unpaid interest does not compound. This means that the interest owes grows only by the interest on the outstanding principal balance. Interest does not accrue on the unpaid interest.
Is the interest accrued on unpaid child support a part of child support?
No, child support is the amount that is determined by the Court and Statute to appropriately support the Minor Child according to the incomes of the parents. The fact that a noncustodial parent fails to pay the support they were ordered to pay does not result in an increase in the amount that is owed. Instead missed payments can be treated as an outstanding judgment which can accrue interest. The interest accrued is not a part of child support per say but is a penalty for the failure to pay the amount ordered.
Is interest on unpaid support collectable through the same methods as unpaid support?
Yes. Federal income tax refund intercepts and any payments in excess of the current monthly child support obligation shall be applied to the unpaid child support balance. Interest on child support obligations may be collected by any means available under federal and State laws, rules and regulations providing for the collection of child support.
How is collected interest for unpaid support treated for tax purposes?
Interest on unpaid support is treated as income for the purposes of State and Federal taxes. Where child support is excluded as reportable income for tax purposes, interest income must be reported if the total amount of interest received is over $600.00. If you are using DCSS services, they will send you the appropriate tax forms during tax season to ensure the amount received is reported correctly.
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