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Illinois Child Support Laws Explained

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
September 30, 2020

 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 and how child support was calculated for orders entered prior to July 1, 2017.

We answer the questions “how is child support calculated under the new ‘income shares’ model for Illinois child support?”, “how was child support calculated in Illinois prior to 2017?”, “how is child support impacted if a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed?”, “can Illinois courts deviate from child support guidelines?”, “when does child support end in Illinois?”, “can a parent stop paying child support if the other parent violates the parenting time order?”, and “how does the remarriage of one of the parents impact child support?”  We also explain how child support works in shared parenting situations and how to change child support obligations in Illinois.

How is Child Support Calculated Under the New “Income Shares” Model for Illinois Child Support?

Illinois child support law was reformed in 2017.  For child support orders entered after July 1, 2017, courts apply the “income shares” model for calculating child support.  For more on this change, check out our article: Recent Changes to Illinois Child Support Law.

The most significant change from the previous law is that, while the previous law only considered the income of the obligor (the parent responsible for paying child support), the new law considers the income of both parents in calculating child support.  

In calculating child support under the “income shares” model, the court first determines the total amount that is needed for the care of the child using economic tables propounded by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.  The obligation to provide for this amount is then divided among the parents based on their net incomes relative to one another.  

This means that the more the recipient makes compared to the obligor, the less he or she is likely to receive in child support.  

Child Support and Shared Parenting Situations in Illinois

A “shared parenting situation” is defined as each parent having responsibility for the child for at least 146 overnights per year.  In shared parenting situations, the total amount that the parents must allocate for the care of the child is increased by a factor of 50%.  However, this is mitigated by the fact that the amount of time that each parent spends with the child is also factored into the calculus.  This means that if you are the child support obligor, you will tend to pay less in child support as you spend more time responsible for the child.  

How is Child Support Impacted if a Parent is Voluntarily Unemployed or Underemployed?

If a parent is unemployed or underemployed, he or she will have very little if any income, which places most of the burden of supporting child support on the other parent.  However, when the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court will use his or her potential income where he or she to become employed in calculating child support, as opposed to actual income.  An exception to this rule is when the parent’s unemployment or underemployment is in the best interests of the child.  

For more on this check out our article: How is Illinois Child Support Calculated When One Parent is Unemployed or Underemployed?

How Was Child Support Calculated Prior to 2017?

Prior to July 1, 2017, The IMDMA guidelines required the support-paying parent to pay from their net income as follows: twenty percent (20%) for one child; twenty-eight percent (28%) for two children; thirty-two percent (32%) for three children; forty percent (40%) for four children; forty-five percent (45%) for five; and fifty percent (50%) for six or more children. The net income is determined as the income after taxes, social security, retirement contributions, health insurance and several other deductions permitted under state statute.

Can Illinois Courts Deviate From Child Support Guidelines?

The court may order child support that deviates from the state required minimum if the court finds it is in the best interest of the child. The court can use several factors to determine the best interests of the child. First, the court will determine the financial needs of the child. Second, the court will consider the financial responsibilities and needs of both the residential and non-residential parent. The court may also consider the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child. Finally, the court will consider the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced.

How to Change Child Support Obligations in Illinois

Once an order of child support is entered, the order may only be modified, whether increased, decreased or abated, if a court finds that a change in circumstances warrants a modification.

For more on this check out our article: Illinois Child Support Modification Explained.

When does Child Support End in Illinois?

Further, an order for child support will terminate upon the child turning eighteen years old or upon graduation from high school if the child turns eighteen and is still in high school. However, child support will usually not be ordered past a child’s nineteenth birthday.

For more on this, check out: When Does Child Support End in Illinois?

Several courts will make an order for contribution towards post high school education even though child support is not automatically required because the child has reached the age of majority.  For more, check out: Illinois Child Support and College Expenses.

Can a Parent Stop Paying Child Support if the Other Parent Violates the Parenting Time Order?

It is important for parents to keep in mind child support is an independent obligation and should be preserved despite other problems which may arise between parents, such as disagreements regarding parenting time. It is important to note, however, that recent studies have shown non-residential parents are more likely to pay support in a timely fashion when their visitation with their child(ren) occurs without interference from the residential parent.

For more on this, check out: Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Don’t Get to See My Child?

How Does Remarriage of One of the Parents Impact Child Support?

Remarriage of either parent has no impact on child support obligations.  The new spouse has no legal obligation to financially provide for the child.  For this reason, a new spouse’s income is not factored into child support calculations.  

For more on this, check out: Child Support and Remarriage in Illinois.

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