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Kevin O'Flaherty

In Illinois, when one parent is unemployed or underemployed, child support is calculated based on whether the unemployment or underemployment is voluntary or involuntary. If involuntary, the actual income of the parent is used; if voluntary, the court may impute potential income based on what the parent could be earning, unless the underemployment is deemed in the best interest of the child, in which case the actual income is used.

Here we dissect these considerations to provide clear guidance on how Illinois courts establish fair child support payments in such cases.

Key Takeaways

  • Illinois child support uses Income Shares, considering parents' incomes, child count, contributions, and custody time.
  • Law differentiates voluntary/involuntary job loss in support calculations, considering real or potential earnings.
  • Support obligations adjust with financial or child needs changes; not reporting risks fines or jail.

Illinois Child Support: The Basics

On July 1, 2017, Illinois revamped its child support framework to enhance the fairness of child support payments. The state shifted away from a formula that only included the income of the paying parent (obligor) to an Income Shares model that takes into account both parents’ incomes. This new method adheres to the concept that contributions towards child support should be in proportion to each parent’s financial situation and income ratio, ensuring an equitable share in supporting their shared child.

The revised system with its Income Shares approach aims at equitably dividing parental responsibilities for supporting their children based on what each parent can financially contribute. As such, being well-informed about how this model works is crucial for those looking to understand or engage with Illinois’ method of calculating and allocating child support obligations.

Determining Net Income

A critical component of the Income Shares model centers around the assessment of net income. In the context of Illinois, when determining child support, net income is identified as what’s left once all legally recognized deductions have been removed from an individual’s total earnings. Such deductions cover necessary expenditures including:

  • tax payments
  • contributions to social security
  • retirement savings allocations
  • premiums for health insurance

Reductions may encompass alimony paid or obtained and any existing child support payments related to children from previous relationships as well as social security benefits. Since pinpointing net income involves a complex process, it’s essential to understand these elements thoroughly for precise calculations regarding child support obligations.

Factors Affecting Child Support Amounts

Several crucial factors come into play in determining child support amounts. The Illinois child support system employs a standardized income shares model, which scales the support obligations based on the following factors:

  • The combined income of both parents
  • The number of children
  • The relative income contribution of each parent during the marriage
  • The amount of time each parent spends with the child

These factors are used to calculate child support, ensuring the appropriate amount is determined for each unique situation.

In addition to income and parenting time, other factors that affect the amount of child support required include:

  • The number of children involved in the child support case
  • Childcare expenses, including daycare, after-school care, and camps
  • Costs associated with extraordinary school and extracurricular activities

These variables ensure that child support payments meet the child’s specific financial needs, providing the necessary financial support.

Child Support When One of the Parents is Involuntarily Unemployed or Underemployed

If the unemployment or underemployment is involuntary and the parent has made and continues to make good-faith efforts to seek employment, the parent’s actual income will be used to calculate child support.  

This means that an involuntarily unemployed or underemployed obligor (the person who pays child support) will pay less than he or she would if he or she were fully employed, because his or her actual income will be taken into account when calculating his or her child support obligation.

On the flip side, an involuntarily unemployed or underemployed obligee (the recipient of child support) will receive more from the obligor than he or she would if he or she had a full income.  

Child Support When One of the Parents is Voluntarily Unemployed or Underemployed

On the other hand, if a parent’s unemployment or underemployment is voluntary, due to a lack of effort to find a job, a motivation to evade child support, or passing up on potential business opportunities, the court will use the unemployed or underemployed parent’s potential income to calculate child support, rather than his or her actual income.  

This means that each party will present proof before the court as to what the unemployed or underemployed parent could be making if he or she were employed.  The judge will weigh the evidence and determine a potential income to use in child support calculations.  

A voluntarily unemployed or underemployed obligor will pay child support as if he or she was fully employed.  A voluntarily unemployed or underemployed obligee will not receive a larger child support payment as a result of his or her unemployment or underemployment.  

How is Illinois Child Support Calculated if Your Ex Gets Remarried?

Many people ask what happens if their ex gets remarried.  If your ex gets remarried, their new spouse’s income will have no impact on child support, because the new spouse has no legal obligation toward the child.  If your ex becomes voluntarily underemployed or unemployed due to the remarriage, the rule discussed above will apply and courts will use potential income to calculate child support.

Illinois Child Support and Voluntary Unemployment or Underemployment for the Best Interest of the Child

An exception to the rule that potential income will be used in child support calculations for voluntarily unemployed or underemployed parents occurs when the parent’s unemployment or underemployment is in the best interest of the child.  In these cases, the court will not impute potential income upon the unemployed or underemployed parent but will use his or her reduced actual income in the child support calculation.  

In summary, when you are calculating child support when one parent is unemployed or underemployed, there are three issues before the court:

  1. Is the unemployment or underemployment voluntary?
  2. If so, is the parent’s unemployment or underemployment in the best interest of the child?
  3. If not, what would the unemployed or underemployed parent’s income be if he or she were fully employed?
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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