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How To Get Your Maximum Child Support Award In Illinois

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Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
September 15, 2020

In this article, we discuss how to maximize your amount of child support in Illinois and answer the following questions:


  • How Is Child Support Calculated In Illinois?
  • What Expenses Should Be Included Beyond The Basic Requirements?
  • When Is It Appropriate To Modify Your Child Support Order To Receive More Money?


When parents get a legal separation or divorce, part of the overall process involves determining child support payments. Often, the parent with whom the child lives will receive the child support award periodically. The amount of child support awarded depends on several financial, emotional, and medical factors. Child support is meant to maintain consistency in the child’s life and to help the residential parent afford the various necessities associated with raising a child. Whether you’re in the early stage of the divorce process or feel that modifying an existing child support order is necessary, there are many elements you should consider to maximize your child support award.


How Is Child Support Calculated In Illinois?


In 2017 Illinois updated their child support law in favor of a more flexible and encompassing system referred to as the “income shares model.” For an up to date and in-depth review of this model, check out our article “Changes To Illinois Child Support Laws 2019”. A summarized breakdown of Illinois child support calculation is as follows:


  1. Calculate “net income” by running each parent’s gross income through a gross to net conversion chart.
  2. Combine the parent’s net income to determine the total net income.
  3. Breakdown the two net incomes into the parent’s individual percentage of total net income.
  4. Take the total net income and determine the minimum child support obligation via an income shares chart.
  5. Take the number form the income shares chart and multiply it by each parent’s individual percentage of total net income.
  6. The resulting number is the basic child support obligation. It is assumed that the non-paying or residential parent will not pay this number because they are already caring for the child and paying whatever is needed, while the paying or non-residential parent must pay the calculated amount.


What Expenses Should Be Included Beyond Basic Child Support?


Illinois considers the typical costs of raising a family—with whatever number of children are shared between the married couple—and applies to the income level that would have been in place had the parents stayed together. But, if there are any changes in employment following the divorce this would necessitate a change in child support. Depending on the timing of this new employment a child support modification may be necessary.


Beyond the basic child support obligation, number of children in the family, and the parent’s income, there are a number of other factors that can affect the amount of child support awarded. Additional expenses and needs that should be brought to the court’s attention can include:


  • The child’s physical needs: Health, dental, vision, and any medication that your child requires consistently should be included in the child support award. You can also work with the other parent and the court to establish how medical bills will be paid for services that are infrequent and unpredictable. You should also include any time away from your job that impacts your compensation, such as driving to and from appointments or spending time waiting at appointments.
  • Developmental and emotional needs: If your child needs speech therapy, counseling, behavioral therapy, or anything else related to his or her development these should be included in the child support award. Also, if your child is involved in any extracurricular activities, the costs of these should be factored in.
  • The cost of education, including private school, college, textbooks, school supplies, tutors, etc, should be part of the child support payments. However, if a child did not attend a private school before the divorce, switching to a new school that costs more money when one is already available for no increase in cost, may not be awarded. 


Worst case scenario, if you’re not sure if something should be included ask your attorney and list it anyways. The worst that happens is it is denied.


When Is It Appropriate To Modify Your Child Support Order To Receive More Money?


Life is not static. It would be ignorant to believe that once child support is set no changes can be made in the future.  Parent’s should be prepared to pay more or less into child support and likewise receive more or less depending on the financial changes of both parties. Certain things, such as one of the parents remarrying, can have a potentially permanent effect on child support payments, but more often they are short or medium-term events that require modification of child support. Some common reasons for filing a modification to increase child support include:


  • Your ex-spouse’s income increases or they receive a bonus;
  • You suddenly have added expenses in the form of additional family members;
  • You lose your job and can’t make up the difference from unemployment;
  • Your ex-spouse receives a significant inheritance resulting in a dramatically improved lifestyle. (The effect of inheritance on child support in Illinois is complex and does not guarantee an increase for the other parent.)


If you’re unsure whether you’ve maximized your potential child support award and feel you’re entitled to more, give us a call and speak with one of our experienced family law attorneys.


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