On August 12, 2016, Governer Rauner signed into law Public Act 99-0764, which will change the manner in which Illinois divorce courts calculate child support. The law will be effective on July 1, 2017 and will modify two sections of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act ("The IMDMA"), specifically 750 ILCS 5/505 and 750 ILCS 5/510.
According to the current child support law, which you can read about here, courts are directed to award as child support certain minimum percentages of the non-custodial parent's net income, regardless of the income of the custodial parent. The new law replaces these minimum guidelines with an "income shares" model, which is already in use in most other states.
Under the "income shares" model, the divorce court is instructed to refer to economic tables that will be put forth by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to determine how much money would be allocated for the care of the child if a similarly situated couple were living together based on the combined income of the couple, the cost of living, and the number of children. Each parent is responsible for their prorata share of this amount based on their relative incomes (or potential incomes if the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed). Depending on the relative incomes of the parents this may cause some parents to pay more and some to pay less in child support than under the previous law.
The new law also treats child support differently in "shared parenting" situations, meaning that each parent has the child for at least 146 overnights per year. In a shared parenting situation, the base amount of total child support is multiplied by 1.5, meaning that the total amount to be allocated to child support by both parents will increase. In a shared parenting situation, the amount of time that each parent spends with the child will factor into the amount of child support he or she is responsible. The more time you spend with the child, the less your child support obligation will be relative to the other parent. Time spent with the child does not become a factor until the "146 overnights per year" threshold is met.
Under the New Illinois Child Support Law, will Child Support Courts Have Discretion to Deviate From the Guidelines Set Forth By the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services?
Update (12/4/16): A reader commented on our article "How is Child Support Calculated for Multiple Families in Illinois?" explaining that her husband had a child support obligaiton from a previous relationship in Illinois. She explained that she and her husband had two children together, which were not contemplated in the existing child support order. She asked whether, under the new child support law, the court would consider this in modifying child support.
The new child support law provides that the court must apply the child support guidelines set forth by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (explained above) unless the court makes a finding that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate after considering the "best interests of the child." The law states that the "best interests of the child" are determined by weighing the following factors:
The court would have discretion to weigh your current financial situation, including your additional obligation to support your two children, in determining whether strict application of the guidelines would be inappropriate in light of the court's determination of the best interest of the child. If you are in this situation, I would recommend speaking directly to an attorney, who can review relevant case law against the specifics of your case in order to give you a legal opinion regarding the likelihood of the court exercising its discretion to deviate from the guidelilnes in your particular case.
Can I modify My existing Child Support Order based on the New Law?
Update (11/9/16): A reader commented on this article asking whether, after July 1, 2017, he would be able to have his existing child support order modified to bring it into line with the new child support guidelines. The answer is that the passage of the new law, in and of itself, is not a basis to have your child support modified.
You will still need to show a "substantial change in circumstances" other than the change in the law for the court to modify your child support. However, if you are able to demonstrate a change in circumstances after July 1, 2017, your child support will be modified in accordance with the new law, as opposed to the law in place at the time the original order was entered.
In response to the question, I have written a new article: Illinois Child Support Modification Explained, which explains how to file a petition for modification of child support and exactly what constitutes a "substantial change in circumstances" that would allow a modification.
How is Child Support Calculated for Multiple Families in Illinois?
Update (11/30/16): A reader commented on this article asking how child support is handled when the non-custodial parent has multiple families in multiple states. You can read our answer here: How is Child Support Calculated for Multiple Families in Illinois?
Please do not hesitate to leave a comment with any further questions.
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