How to Establish Child Support

Illinois Child Support Laws Explained

Updated on:
January 30, 2019

In this article, we explain child support laws in Illinois. We will explain how child support works for child support orders after Illinois' July 1, 2017 change in the law; how child support was calculated for orders entered prior to July 1, 2017; when courts deviate from child support guidelines; and the consequences of not paying child support.

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.

How is Illinois Child Support Calculated For Orders Entered After July 1, 2017?

In 2017, Illinois joined the states that 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 on a case-by-case basis using on economic tables propounded by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

This total is then be divided between the responsible parents in percentages determined based on their net incomes relative to one another. If you are the obligor parent, this means that the more you make relative to the other parent, the more you are likely to pay in child support. If you are the recipient, the more you make relative to the obligor, the less you are likely to receive.

In "shared parenting situations," in which each parent has custody of the children for at least 146 overnights per year, the total amount the parents are required to contribute to the child is increased by a factor of 50%. However, in these situations, the time that the obligor spends with the child is a factor that serves to reduce the amount of child support.

For much more on the current state of Illinois Child Support Law, check out our article: Illinois Child Support 2019.

Illinois Child Support Law Prior to July 1, 2017

For orders entered prior to July 1, 2017, Illinois based its child support obligations on a calculation of a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income, after allowing for certain deductions. This percentage increased in relation to the number of children claimed, as follows:

  • 1 child: 20%
  • 2 children: 28%
  • 3 children: 32%
  • 4 children: 40%
  • 5 children: 45%
  • 6+ children: 50%

When Do Courts Deviate from Child Support Guidelines?

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 courts use to determine this include:

  • The child’s projected standard of living, had his or her parents stayed together
  • The child’s physical and emotional state
  • The child’s educational needs
  • The financial resources of both parents

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.


Consequences of Unpaid Child Support

Do I Have to pay Child Support in Illionis?

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.


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