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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article we will explain recent changes to Illinois child support law.  Although the major changes discussed in this article went into effect in July of 2017, this article has been reviewed and updated for 2019. For much more on Illinois child support law, check out our article: Illinois Child Support 2019.

On August 12, 2016, Governor Rauner signed into law Public Act 99-0764, which changed the manner in which Illinois divorce courts calculate child support.  The law became effective on July 1, 2017 and modified two sections of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act ("The IMDMA"), specifically 750 ILCS 5/505 and 750 ILCS 5/510.  

According to the previous child support law, courts were directed to award as child support certain minimum percentages of the non-custodial parent's net income, regardless of the income of the custodial parent.  The new law replaced these minimum guidelines with an "income shares" model, which is already in use in most other states.

Under the "income shares" model, the divorce court is instructed to refer to economic tables put forth by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to determine how much money would be allocated for the care of the child if a similarly situated couple were living together based on the combined income of the couple, the cost of living, and the number of children.  Each parent is responsible for their prorata share of this amount based on their relative incomes (or potential incomes if the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed).  Depending on the relative incomes of the parents this may cause some parents to pay more and some to pay less in child support than under the previous law.  

The new law also treats child support differently in "shared parenting" situations, meaning that each parent has the child for at least 146 overnights per year.  In a shared parenting situation, the base amount of total child support is multiplied by 1.5, meaning that the total amount to be allocated to child support by both parents will increase.  In a shared parenting situation, the amount of time that each parent spends with the child will factor into the amount of child support he or she is responsible.  The more time you spend with the child, the less your child support obligation will be, relative to the other parent.  Time spent with the child does not become a factor until the "146 overnights per year" threshold is met. ​

Under the New Illinois Child Support Law, do Courts Have Discretion to Deviate From the Guidelines Set Forth By the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services?

A reader commented on our article "How is Child Support Calculated for Multiple Families in Illinois?" explainingthat her husband had a child support obligaiton from a previous relationship in Illinois.  She explained that she and her husband had two children together, which were not contemplated in the existing child support order.  She asked whether, under the new child support law, the court would consider this in modifying child support.  

The new child support law provides that the court must apply the child support guidelines set forth by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (explained above) 
 the court makes a finding that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate after considering the "best interests of the child."  The law states that the "best interests of the child" are determined by weighing the following factors:

  • The financial resources and needs of the child; 
  • The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent; 
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents remained together; 
  • The physical and emotional condition of the child; 
  • The child's educational needs; and
  • The financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.

If you are responsible for two additional children that were not contemplated by the original child support order, this would certainly qualify as a "substantial change of circumstances," which, as explained below, would potentially allow you to modify your existing child support order.  

The court would have discretion to weigh your current financial situation, including your additional obligation to support your two children, in determining whether strict application of the guidelines would be inappropriate in light of the court's determination of the best interest of the child. If you are in this situation, I would recommend speaking directly to an
attorney, who can review relevant case law against the specifics of your case in order to give you a legal opinion regarding the likelihood of the court exercising its discretion to deviate from the guidelines in your particular case.  

Can I modify My existing Child Support Order based on the New Law?

 A reader commented on this article asking whether, after July 1, 2017, he would be able to have his existing child support order modified to bring it into line with the new child support guidelines.  The answer is that the passage of the new law, in and of itself, is not a basis to have your child support modified.

You will still need to show a "substantial change in circumstances" other than the change in the law for the court to modify your child support. However, if you are able to demonstrate a change in circumstances after July 1, 2017, your child support will be modified in accordance with the new law, as opposed to the law in place at the time the
original order was entered.  

​In response to the question, I have written a new article: Illinois Child Support Modification Explained, which explains how to file a petition for modification of child support and exactly what constitutes a "substantial change in circumstances" that would allow a modification. ​ 

How is Child Support Calculated for Multiple Families in Illinois?

A reader commented on this article asking how child support is handled when the non-custodial parent has multiple families in multiple states.  You can read our answer here:  How is Child Support Calculated for Multiple Families in Illinois?

​Please do not hesitate to leave a comment with any further questions.  ​

Illinois Has Released Guidelines and Child Support Calculator for New Child Support Law

Many of our readers have commented asking whether they are likely to be paying or receiving more or less in child support under the new "income shares model."  The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services has released guidelines to assist our readers in estimating their child support obligations under this law, along with several other tools, including a calculator you can use to estimate your child support.

Check out our new article in which we link to these tools and explain how to use them properly: Illinois Child Support Guidelines 2019.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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