How is Illinois Child Support Calculated in 2019?

Illinois Child Support 2019

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article we will provide a comprehensive overview of Illinois child support law in 2019.  We answer many frequently asked questions including: how is Illinois child support calculated in 2019?, when can Illinois child support orders be modified?, and how is child support calculated if one parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed?  

How is Illinois Child Support Calculated in 2019?

Last year, Illinois changed the way that child support is calculated by adopting the “income shares” model of child support.  According to the income shares model, courts determine the amount of child support for which the parents are collectively responsible using economic tables that take into account the combined income of the parents, the cost of living, and the number of children involved.  

Once the combined amount of child support for which the parents are responsible is determined, each parent’s share of this amount is determined based on the parents’ relative incomes.  Generally, the more the obligor parent makes in income compared to the the obligee parent, the more child support the obligor will be required to pay.  To learn more about how Illinois child support is calculated under the “income shares model,” check out our article: Changes to Illinois Child Support Laws for 2017.  

How is Illinois Child Support Treated Differently in Shared Parenting Situations in 2019?

If each of the parents is responsible for the child for at least 146 overnight stays per year, Illinois law considers this a “shared parenting situation.”  Illinois child support is calculated differently in “shared parenting situations” than in non-shared parenting situations.  In shared-parenting situations, the total amount of child support for which the parents are responsible is increased by a factor of 50% and the amount of time each parent spends with the child is factored into the calculation of each parent’s obligation.  In shared-parenting situations, the more time the obligor parent spends with the child, the less he or she will be required to pay in child support.  

How to Calculate My Child Support Amount in Illinois

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services has several tools on its website that you can use to estimate the amount of child support you will owe or to which you will be entitled, including:

  • A Child Support Calculator;
  • An Overview of how the Income Shares Model works;
  • A table to assist you in converting your “gross income” to “net income;”
  • A worksheet to determine your child support amount based on your net income; and
  • A worksheet to determine your child support amount if you are in a shared-parenting situation.  

For a full discussion of what these resources are and how to use them, check out our article: Illinois Child Support Guidelines.

When Can Illinois Courts Deviate from Child Support Guidelines?

Illinois courts are required to follow the child support guidelines put forward by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services unless the court finds that deviating from the guidelines would be in the “best interest of the child.”  In order to determine whether deviation from the guidelines would be in the best interest of the child, courts weigh the following factors:

  • The child’s own financial resources and needs;
  • Each parent’s financial resources and needs;
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not separated;
  • The physical and emotional health of the child; and
  • The child’s educational needs.
When Can Child Support Orders be Modified in Illinois?

When Can Child Support Orders be Modified in Illinois?

Illinois child support orders can only be modified if the party seeking to modify the order can show:

  • That a “substantial change in circumstances” has occurred since the entry of the order;
  • That the modification is necessary to provide for the healthcare needs of the child; or
  • That the child support order deviates from Illinois guidelines by more than 20% (note that this basis for child support obligation is only available in specific circumstances that we discuss in the article linked below).  

The passage of the 2017 law changing how child support obligations are calculated does not constitute a basis for modifying a child support order entered under the previous guidelines.  However, if one of the three bases for child support modification can be established, the court will use the current law to determine the child support obligation going forward, even if the original order applied the previous law.  

Child support obligations that have already become due and owing cannot be modified even if one of the above bases for modification can be shown.  

To learn more about what qualifies as a “substantial change in circumstances” and how to file a petition to modify child support in Illinois, check out our article: Illinois Child Support Modification Explained.

How is Illinois Child Support Calculated if One Parent is Voluntarily Unemployed or Underemployed?

In determining each party’s income for the purpose of determining child support obligations, Illinois courts will consider a parent’s potential income if the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.  In these cases, the other party will offer evidence of the party’s potential earning capacity were he or she to seek full employment.

How is Illinois Child Support Calculated if One Parent Has Varying Income, such as Overtime, Commission, or Bonuses?

As we discussed above, the amount that a parent must pay in child support is based on the relative incomes of the parents, but what if one of the parents has an income has income that varies from month to month based on bonuses, commission or overtime?  If one parent has varying income, there are three methods that Illinois courts may use to determine the parent’s income for the purposes of child support:

  • Courts may average the income over a certain number of prior months.
  • Alternatively, courts may set a base child support amount that the obligor parent must supplement on a monthly basis based on the actual additional income earned.
  • In addition to one of the above methods, the court may order that the parties exchange financial information at periodic intervals in order to true up the amount that should have been paid during the previous period.  

You can learn more about each of these methods by checking out our article: How is Illinois Child Support Calculated for Overtime, Bonuses & Varying Income?

How do Maintenance Payments Affect Child Support Obligations in Illinois?

In order to understand how one parent’s payment or receipt of spousal maintenance (otherwise known as alimony) impacts child support obligations, it is important to remember that the amount of child support required in Illinois is based on the parties’ incomes relative to one another.  So with that baseline knowledge, here’s how maintenance affects child support in Illinois:

  • If you are the recipient of maintenance payments, these payments serve to increase your income for child support purposes, whether the maintenance is received from the parent paying child support or from a different ex-spouse.  This means that if you are also the recipient of child support the maintenance you receive will tend to reduce the amount of child support you receive.
  • If you are the party making maintenance payments, the key is whether the payments are being made to the same party as your child support payments.  Maintenance payments made to the same person as your child support payments will reduce your income for the purpose of child support, thereby reducing your child support obligation.  However, maintenance payments made to third parties do not reduce your income and have no effect on your child support obligation.   

For more, check out our article: How do Maintenance Payments Affect Child Support Obligations in Illinois?

How is Child Support Calculated if the Father has Child Support Obligations to Multiple Families?

If a child support obligor has obligations to multiple families, the rule is that any prior child support orders will reduce the obligor’s “net income” for the purpose of calculating any subsequent orders.  This means that the order in which the child support orders were entered is important.  The obligor will have more income, and therefore be required to pay more in child support for earlier orders than for later orders.   

To learn more about how child support works for multiple families, check out our article: How is Child Support Calculated for Multiple Families in Illinois?

How is Child Support Determined for College Expenses?

How is Child Support Determined for College Expenses?

The general rule is that child support is required until the child either turns 18 or graduates high school.  However, Illinois courts have discretion to award child support after the child turns 18 or graduates high school.  One common reason for doing so is to provide for the child’s college expenses.  

When seeking child support for adult children, the burden is on the party seeking the child support to prove that child support is appropriate. If the court finds the child support to be appropriate, the amount of child support that each parent will be required to contribute is determined based on the relative income of the parties.  

To learn more about the factors that courts review in determining whether adult child support is appropriate, check out our article: Illinois Child Support and College Expenses.

How to Determine Which Court has Jurisdiction Over Child Support

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act prohibits multiple child support orders to be entered in different states.  Child support orders may only be modified by courts in the state in which they were originally entered so long as one of the parents continues to live in that state. However, a foreign state may enforce another state’s order, so long as the state has personal jurisdiction over the obligor.  To learn more about how personal jurisdiction is established, check out our article: How to Determine Child Support Jurisdiction.  

How to Enforce a Child Support Order in Illinois

Child support orders may be enforced administratively through the Illinois Department of Child Support Services, or via a contempt proceeding in court, or both.  For more, check out our article: How to Enforce Child Support in Illinois.

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