In this article, we’ll be going over the child support laws in Illinois, as well as the consequences of not paying child support.
Update: This element of child support law has been changed in 2018. Illinois now joins the states who have adopted an "income shares" model for child support calculations. In short, "income shares" means that the court will determine the overall grand total cost for supporting a child. This total will then be divided between the responsible parents in percentages determined based on their income. This is effective as of July 2017, so this particular section of this article is only relevant for child support claims prior to July 2017. Feel free to skip to the "Consequences of Unpaid Child Support" section for currently relevant information. For information on how the new law has affected child support, see our article "Changes to Illinois Child Support Laws 2018."
Every child has the right to receive financial support in Illinois, up until the age of 18. When two parents separate, a child is legally obligated to receive monetary sustenance from each parent in order to ensure an acceptable quality of life. If two parents agree to a child support payment schedule outside of court, the agreement still has to meet the legal requirements and receive court approval to be considered legitimate.
Child support laws are determined at the state level. Illinois bases its child support laws on a calculation of a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income, after allowing for certain deductions. This percentage increases in relation to the number of children claimed, as follows:
If, for some reason, the applicable percentage does not meet a child’s financial needs, an Illinois judge can adjust the amount due. Some factors may include:
In some cases, an Illinois court may add expenses for different events, such as daycare costs, health care, extracurricular activities, or private school tuition. Of course, a non-custodial parent who receives a very high annual income is also able to contribute more child support than a non-custodial parent who receives a very low annual income.
To calculate a minimum child support order, parents can complete a Child Support Obligation Form, available from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). This state agency is responsible for pursuing several different remedies, including wage garnishment, revocation of licenses, property liens, criminal prosecution, and interception of tax refunds. The DCSS can also help families obtain child support orders, locate absent parents, establish paternity, and secure compliance with child support orders.
Yes. If a non-custodial parent fails or refuses to pay court-approved child support, the custodial parent may contact the DCSS. Once a custodial parent notifies the state agency of the non-custodial parent’s failure to provide payment, the DCSS starts collecting all payment activities of the non-custodial parent (if a custodial parent is receiving public assistance, this monitoring is automatic).
Once a non-custodial parent does not pay child support over a six-month time period, or if the non-custodial parent owes the custodial parent more than $5,000, DCSS may initiate a request for state or prosecution of the non-custodial parent for failure to pay. Fines and imprisonment depend on the severity of the non-payment; for example, an individual may be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor for failing to pay child support for six months or owing more than $5,000. However, this charge could be classified as a Class 4 felony with imprisonment for one to three years if the same individual owed more than $20,000.
If a parent refuses to pay child support, the other parent may ask for a hearing before an Illinois judge. The non-custodial parent will then be served with an official document, ordering him or her to attend a court-ordered hearing. The non-paying parent is given a chance to explain why he or she is not paying the owed child support. If this individual does not attend the hearing, the court may issue a warrant for his or her arrest.
Even if the non-custodial parent does attend the hearing, the Illinois judge can still send him or her to jail for violating the court-ordered child support agreement. Depending on the non-custodial parent’s reasoning for failure to provide payment, the judge may order him or her to make future payments or agree to a payment schedule to make up for the unpaid child support. The judge can also order the non-custodial parent’s wages be withheld, a lien be placed on his or her property, or even that he or she must post a bond or other assets.
Judges rarely send a parent to jail, but depending on the severity of the situation, it is always a possibility. This is due to the fact that a jailed parent cannot earn an income to pay the owed child support. Jail time is usually only ordered if an income withholding order or wage garnishment are not viable options.
If you are looking to prosecute an individual for unpaid child support, please do not hesitate to contact us today.