Factors in Determining Child Support

Raising children is expensive – one estimate of costs necessary to raise a child through the age of 17 is $233,610 per child, or nearly $14,000 per year.  Although most parents’ primary concern is the well-being of their children, their own financial considerations are important as well, especially in a divorce situation.

Illinois recognizes the right of every child to expect financial support from both parents and has changed the law to better enable this to happen.  On July 1, 2017, Public Act 99-764  went into effect that changed how the state calculates child support and what each parent is responsible for.

The compassionate and experienced Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec understand the stresses of divorce and recognize that changing child support laws can lead to confusion.  If you have any concerns about how the new law affects you and your children, we offer a free initial consultation to examine your individual situation and help come up with solutions that are best for you and your family.

What the New Law Says

Previously in Illinois, only the parent who did not have custody had to provide child support, giving a percentage of their net income to the parent who had residential custody. Under the new law that amends the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), there will now be an “income-share” system, which is becoming more common in the United States.

This system means both parents contribute to child support based on how much they financially contributed to the combined household income while married. The incomes of both parents are reviewed to determine how much money each parent would spend on their children if they were still married and living together. Based on this evaluation and some additional factors, the courts determine what share of the total support amount each parent will be responsible for.

Factors in the Income-Shares Support Calculation

Child support obligations are calculated as follows:

  1. Basic Child Support Obligation – The combined value of child support owed by both parents together is calculated. This is then divided proportionally between the parents based on their individual contribution to the combined household net income that would have existed had they stayed married.

    So, the Basic General Child Support Formula is as follows:
    Total Child Support Obligation equals:
    (Basic child support obligation) multiplied by (Percent contributed to combined net income),
    (Additional expenses ordered by court) multiplied by (Percent contributed to combined net income).

  2. Additional Expenses — These are other costs, such as child care and medical costs, which are added on top of the basic child support obligation.
  3. Parenting Time – The amount of time and number of days per year the child spends with each parent affects the final total and varies for parents who share time.

Shared Parenting

Since parents increasingly share parenting time and responsibilities, the courts also consider the time the child spends with each parent.  In Illinois, “shared parenting” occurs when each parent spends at least 146 overnights (or 40%) with their child each year.

In shared parenting situations, neither parent is considered custodial, so there is a different formula to determine the support obligations.  The basic child support amount is multiplied by 1.5 to become the new amount parents must share, so each parent will have to pay more.  This amount is prorated based on each parent’s percentage of contribution to the combined net income.

Each parent’s child support obligation is then multiplied with the other parent’s percentage of parenting time to find the obligation amount for each parent. The parent who owes the greater amount of child support pays the difference to the parent who owes the lesser amount of child support.

For parents who spend more than 146 days with the child, the child support obligation may be reduced.

Additional factors to consider

In determining actual child support amounts, the courts may consider the following additional factors:

1. Best Interest of the Child

The courts review the child’s educational, physical, and emotional needs in addition to the standard of living the child would have had if the couple was still together. Consideration is made for items such as health insurance, day care, education, and special needs.  Both parents’ financial resources, ability to pay, and needs are also taken into account to ensure that the child will have a healthy, stable, home.

2. Income considerations

Courts look at parents’ income from all sources, less deductions such as taxes, social security, union dues, and health care expenses. Courts also consider prior support obligations from previous marriages.

In addition, even parents who don’t have income could still be responsible for child support.  If a court believes a parent is voluntarily unemployed or working at a lower-paying job than qualified for, or working fewer hours than able to, or leaves a job to attend school, the judge may order higher payments. Sometimes a judge might base support on “imputed” earning potential based on a parent’s recent job or on available local job opportunities.

3. Cost of living (COLA)

Some judges may allow a COLA clause in a child support order that allows payments to increase annually based on the annual cost of living increase.  This helps prevent constantly going back to court for support modifications. Parents who wish to modify an existing support order must show an ongoing material change in circumstances.

Contact Us for Help and a Free Consultation

Child support laws and their changes can be complicated, so if you have questions about how your child support obligation is calculated, you should contact an attorney to be sure your rights are protected. The skilled Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. know the laws, the courts and the system and can guide you through the process.  We represent and advise clients in all types of child custody matters and have a long history of success.

Don’t delay. For a free initial consultation with an experienced and compassionate DuPage County custody lawyer, contact us online or call 630-305-0222.

Attorney Natalie Stec

Natalie M. Stec, born and raised in Illinois, and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her practice has been concentrated in significant pre and post decree marital and family law cases; including custody, visitation, support, and paternity matters. She has important criminal defense experience in both misdemeanor and felony cases. She is a very dedicated and passionate litigator. [ Attorney Bio ]